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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.[1]

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"[2] 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,[3] 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

other groups.

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.[4]

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

center.

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.

[1] "Cuba: la elección presidencial y el destino de la nación". Espacio

Laical, Suplemento Digital No. 211/ octubre 2012.

http://espaciolaical.org/contens/ind_main.html

[2] 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.

[3] Ibid., 4.

[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.

http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=81853

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