Cuba's One-Party State is the Main Obstacle
November 10, 2012
By Samuel Farber*
HAVANA TIMES — Even though the monopoly of power by the Cuban Communist
Party may be compatible with a certain degree of liberalization – that
is, a relaxation of the control that the State exerts over certain
aspects of economic and social life – that political monopoly is the
main obstacle to the genuine democratization of Cuban society.
That is why it is necessary to oppose the single party system and to
prevent that opposition remaining in the hands of the Plattist (after
the Platt Amendment) and pro-capitalist right wing.
The power that the single Party wields is obvious in spite of the
obfuscation introduced by the so-called Popular Power, especially at the
local level. Along with the Armed Forces, particularly its business
agency GAESA, led by Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, a son in law
of Raúl Castro, the Party overwhelmingly controls the economy.
Its control and censorship of the mass media through the official press,
and of the radio and the television through the ICRT (Cuban Institute of
Radio and Television,) is less visible but is intimately and unavoidably
tied to its power monopoly.
It is not for nothing that the "orientations" regarding what and how the
mass media reports come from the Ideological Department of the Central
Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, directed by Rolando Alfonso
Borges. Historically, it is clear that the elimination of the
oppositionist and independent mass media – from the extreme and
reactionary right of the Diario de la Marina to the independent left of
Lunes de Revolución – was carried out in 1960 and 1961 as part of the
measures that made possible the creation of the single party and the
single thought initially embodied in the ORI (Integrated Revolutionary
Organizations), later converted into the PURS (United Party of the
Socialist Revolution) and, finally, into the PCC (Cuban Communist Party.)
The official press has no scruples whatsoever to hide from the people
what the government does not want them to know. For example, is has
hidden a good part of the recent scandals that have occurred at the
highest levels of the government, as in the case of the state airline
Cubana de Aviación.
Likewise, it has kept absolute silence about matters of national
interest, such as what happened with the once celebrated fiber optic
cable from Venezuela to Cuba, with which the government had promised to
considerably increase the connectivity of the island's deficient system.
Its foreign policy coverage has been equally scandalous.
The official dailies Granma and Juventud Rebelde hide any negative news
about foreign country leaders with friendly relations with the Cuban
government, like Russia and China, and even more so about close allies
like President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.
The coverage of the "Arab Spring" has been shameful. Since Egyptian
president Mubarak was a close ally of the United States, the Cuban press
came out in favor of the opposition movement. But because the murderous
Syrian regime of the Assad family has been a historic ally of the Cuban
government, as well as of the USSR and the present Russian government,
the official press has jumbled the truth with the most shameless lies to
promote a highly favorable coverage of Assad's actions.
The official media also controls all expressions of criticism, as
reflected in the letters to the Editor that Granma publishes weekly.
This section is dedicated to promote certain changes in the economy and
publishes many complaints about the poor functioning of low and middle
level bureaucrats, but never publishes any criticism of the policies of
the high level leaders of the ruling party or of the ruling party itself.
An editorial in the Catholic journal Espacio Laical recently proposed
that at the end of Raúl Castro's two five year terms in 2018, the
government establish the direct election of the president among
competing candidates with different political-ideological views and who
are not necessarily members of the Cuban C.P.
Earlier, the Catholic intellectual Lenier González Mederos proposed "the
radical redesign of the state institutions and of the architecture of
the present Communist Party of Cuba so it can welcome in its ranks
national diversity in its totality" calling, in other words, for the
Party to cease being Communist and convert itself into what it proclaims
to be but is not: the party of the Cuban nation.
These proposals are more limited, and certainly more diplomatic, than
the one being presented here. In reality, however, they are neither more
nor less achievable than the abolition of the one-party state.
The leaders of the Cuban Communist Party are not stupid and know very
well that these proposals would threaten their rule and make mincemeat
of the Stalinist conception they have of socialism and of the ill-termed
"democratic centralism," one of the keystones of the Cuban Communist Party.
Even in the remote case that they were implemented, this would likely
lead to a takeover by the Armed Forces and the removal of the Cuban
Communist Party from power. It should be noted however, that this
removal could happen anyway for other reasons after the demise of Fidel
and Raúl Castro.
It is not surprising that González Mederos' proposal in particular is
linked to a vision of Cuban society known as Casa Cuba, which ignores
the profound differences in political, class and racial power, among
other conflicting dimensions, in the "really existing" Cuban society.
And it is precisely because of those conflicts that the freedom to
organize political associations and parties is essential, so that people
– workers, peasants, black people, women and gays, among others – can
organize themselves politically whenever they consider it necessary.
So that the independent social movements in the island can organize into
parties, to struggle at the national and political level for goals that
are difficult to achieve at the local or social level, it is necessary
to abolish the political monopoly of the Cuban Communist Party enshrined
in the current constitution.
As we know, the constitutional monopoly of the ruling party extends to
the official mass organizations such as the CTC (Confederation of Cuban
Workers) and the FMC (Federation of Cuban Women), and that constitutes a
great obstacle to any attempt to independently defend workers, women and
The experience of the independent women's organization Magín, dissolved
by the ruling party in the mid-nineties, is a pertinent example,
particularly given that it was neither an oppositionist nor a dissident
group, although it did have differences with the FMC regarding
controversial questions such as prostitution.
Once deprived of its constitutional monopoly and, therefore, of all the
privileges that the ruling party appropriated for itself in the course
of its long time control of public life, the Communist Party could
become a truly voluntary association financially supported by the dues
and donations of its members and sympathizers.
The number of political organizations and parties that would emerge
would, in the last analysis, depend on the conflict of interests and
divergence of opinions in the "really existing" Cuban society. But the
most important thing would be to establish the principle that the
creation of new political organizations and parties cannot be hindered
by legal, administrative or repressive means.
It is worth adding that, contrary to the false parallel that the regime
has drawn between the Cuban Communist Party and the Cuban Revolutionary
Party led by José Martí, the latter was not a party in the same sense
that is being discussed here: an organization that formulates systematic
proposals for the government and administration of an established state.
Martí's party was organized with only one purpose: to carry out the war
to achieve the country's independence under civilian control, and never
pretended to put forward a single point of view with respect to every
kind of social and economic question.
A democratic socialist republic based on worker, peasant and popular
control is incompatible with the political monopoly wielded by any
organization. The Yugoslavian experience demonstrated that an authentic
self-management at the local level can only function effectively if
there is democratic planning, not dictated by a single party and the
"blind" marketplace, of the economy and nation as a whole.
After all, the decisions with respect to vital questions like the rate
of accumulation and consumption, wages, taxes and social welfare
policies affect the whole economy and society and consequently
circumscribe and limit the decisions, at the local level, of each work
For those of us who support the establishment of a self-managed
socialism, it is necessary to clearly understand that the political
monopoly of the Cuban Communist Party is not going to be abolished
automatically, and that only a democratic movement from below can
achieve that goal.
Worker self-management requires a degree of motivation and involvement
on the part of urban and rural workers that does not exist in a society
whose dire economic situation has strengthened the spirit of "resolver"
(to solve basic needs) – including the wish to emigrate – thus creating
powerful incentives for the efforts of the individual on behalf of
herself and her family, but not on behalf of the collectivity as such.
It is precisely a democratic movement from below that can motivate
people to become interested in the struggle for the democratization of
their work centers and the country as a whole.
*Samuel Farber was born and raised in Cuba and has written numerous
articles and books about that country. His last book Cuba Since the
Revolution of 1959. A Critical Assessment was published by Haymarket
Books in 2011.
 "Cuba: la elección presidencial y el destino de la nación". Espacio
Laical, Suplemento Digital No. 211/ octubre 2012.
 Lenier González Mederos, "Iglesia Católica y nacionalismo: los retos
tras la visita del papa Benedicto XVI," Espacio Laical Digital.
Suplemento Digital No. 177/Mayo 2012, 4.
 Ibid., 4.
 With respect to foreign meddling and, specifically, that of the
United States, it is legitimate and democratic to legally prohibit it
once the communication and political education resources in the island
are equitably distributed among the various political organizations and
parties that commit themselves to peaceful means to resolve conflicts.
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