Saturday, January 28, 2012

Comment: Cuba — towards a new socialist model

Regular readers of my blog deserve an explanation for my not having posted anything since January 18. I had to move house. I'm closer to the ocean now; from my new kitchen window I can see container ships creeping to and from the freight terminal at Sydney's Botany Bay.

A reminder of the intricately interconnected global economy that could be the basis for a planetary socialist society... if we put an end to capitalism before the ecological crisis overwhelms us.

Perhaps the 200 million Chinese industrial, construction and mining workers — concentrated in a few giant metropolises and resembling more the Russian industrial proletariat of the early 20th century than the privileged, sedated "labour aristocracy" of developed capitalist societies — will decide the fate of humanity? If that sleeping giant awakens...

Meanwhile, I hope to return to posting regular translations soon. 

Here is a commentary I wrote for Australia's Green Left Weekly, the second in a series of articles on the debates and changes in Cuba. A slightly edited version has been published on the Green Left website here.

Cuba: towards a new socialist model

By Marce Cameron

As reported in GLW #905, the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), held in April, “endorsed for the first time a fundamental change in the political and economic model”, according to respected Cuban political scientist and Temas magazine editor Rafael Hernandez.

This does not mean the abandonment of Cuba’s socialist project, but the renewal of this project after two decades of the post-Soviet “Special Period”, a deep structural crisis of Cuba’s post-capitalist, centrally-planned economy and an ideological and ethical crisis of the nation’s socialist vocation.

The changes underway in Cuba point to a socialist-oriented society purged of excessive idealism, elements of Soviet bureaucratic “socialism”, the crisis-driven improvisation of the Special Period and the pernicious habits engendered by the survival imperative amid this systemic crisis.

Contrary to the notion that political processes are either “top down” (as in the Greek austerity measures) or “bottom up” (as in the Arab Spring), Cuba’s socialist renewal unites revolutionary leaders and masses in a common struggle to “change everything that must be changed”.

This common struggle is the fruit of a democratic national debate of unprecedented candour, depth and detail on the draft Economic and Social Policy Guidelines

The final version of the Guidelines, adopted by the Sixth Congress and subsequently by Cuba’s national assembly, bears the imprint of this consultative process.

Special Period

In the late 1980s, Cubans enjoyed the highest living standards in Latin America thanks in part to Soviet fair trade. Then the USSR and its satellite states – and the dogmatic certainties of Soviet “Marxism-Leninism” – abruptly crumbled.

A bitter truth was revealed: Soviet bureaucratic “socialism” was a brittle caricature of the real thing. As the Berlin Wall fell and Czechs, Poles and Romanians smashed statues of Marx and Lenin in public squares, Cuban leader Fidel Castro invoked the heroism of the young Soviet republic under Lenin’s leadership.

The Fourth PCC Congress, held in 1991, resolved to continue the “Rectification” process launched at the Third Congress in 1986. At the heart of Cuba’s “recification of errors and negative tendencies” was the abandonment of elements of the Soviet “model” that had been uncritically assimilated.

But the search for a new Cuban model of socialist development, free from both idealistic errors and the malign influence of Soviet Stalinism, was overtaken by the need to survive. The collapse of Cuba’s foreign trade with the Soviet bloc meant industrial paralysis, severe shortages and long queues.

Cuba’s communist leaders were preoccupied with ensuring that what little there was was shared as equitably as possible; that no schools or hospitals closed; that idled workers were not left destitute.

In a word, that social solidarity prevailed over selfishness. 

They had to ensure, for example, that every Cuban child continued to receive a litre of highly subsidised milk each day. Cuba had bartered its lobster for the powdered milk of East German cows. 

With East Germany absorbed into the capitalist West and the simultaneous tightening of the US economic blockade, milk had to be bought at market prices from as far away as New Zealand.

The concessions to the market made during the 1990s to stimulate economic recovery, from the opening to foreign tourism to turning huge state farms into cooperatives under state tutelage, were essentially emergency measures rather than the building blocks of a new socialist model.

During the Special Period the building of socialism had to be put on hold. The Cuban Revolution had to strive to preserve its core social achievements, above all free and universally accessible health care and education at all levels, and adjust to the new world in which US imperialism had emerged as the hegemonic superpower.

Cuba’s revolutionaries would have to come to terms not only with the Soviet debacle and its political lessons for Cuba, but with the Revolution’s own errors, some of which date back to the 1960s. 

The spectacular rise of capitalism “with Chinese characteristics”, and Vietnam’s tightrope walk between socialist commitment and capitalist restoration, would also have to be studied critically.

Finally, no overhaul of Cuba’s socialist model – a configuration of concepts, structures, methods and mentalities that seeks to embody the nation’s socialist objective – could proceed without striving for political consensus, first among the PCC leadership and then among its broad social base, the big majority of Cuba’s working people.

All this has taken two decades.


Contrary to the nonsense peddled by the corporate media, revolutionary Cuba is not a police state; its repressive forces have never been used against the people. It is the force of persuasion, rather than the persuasion of force, that is the outstanding feature of Cuban politics since 1959. 

This is in stark contrast to both Stalinist totalitarianism and capitalist “democracy”.

Unlike capitalist politicians, who may resort to state violence to persuade citizens to accept “what’s good for the country”, Cuba’s communist leaders have to explain and convince. This is why Fidel used to give such long speeches, interrupting baseball telecasts and soap-operas for hours on end. As Havana University’s Jesus Arboleya has observed, Fidel has been the Revolution’s sternest loyal critic.

Striving for consensus, while acknowledging that differences of opinion are healthy and inevitable, will become even more important in the approaching post-Fidel era, when Fidel’s generation of revolutionary leaders – with their unique personal authority forged in heroic deeds in the Sierra Maestra mountains and in the prisons of the Batista dictatorship – are no longer around.

Cuba today is not the same as in 1989. The market concessions have succeeded in stimulating a partial economic recovery amid a growing social differentiation based on access to convertible currency.

A substantial minority of Cubans can live relatively comfortably thanks to remittances, theft from the socialist state and other black market activities and employment in sectors linked to tourism and foreign investment. With state salaries insufficient to cover all basic living costs, most Cubans have had no choice but to turn to the black market to make ends meet.

When workers are obliged to steal from their workplaces in order to live with dignity, they tend to turn a blind eye to corrupt administrators. How to instill a sense of individual and collective responsibility for socially-owned productive property when it has come to be viewed by many workers and administrators as a source of illicit personal enrichment?


This touches on an old problem that predates the Special Period. Hyper-centralised management of Cuba’s centrally-planned economy reduces the scope for worker participation, while excessive egalitarianism in the sphere of wages tends to breed contempt for social property: less politically conscious and committed workers may think, “Why bother working hard when I’ll get paid the same low wages?”

This is one example of the convergence of elements of Soviet bureaucratic “socialism” with excessive revolutionary idealism.

Others are Cuba’s wholesale e
xpropriation of urban small businesses in 1968, a policy that is now being reversed, and the all-pervasive nature of the socialist state, which is now retreating to its appropriate functions and dimensions in a society that envisages its eventual “withering away”, as Karl Marx put it. 

“For the worker to feel like the owner of the means of production, we cannot rely solely on theoretical explanations – we have been doing that for about 48 years – nor on the fact that their opinion is taken into consideration in the workplace meetings. 

"It is very important that their income corresponds to their personal contribution and to the work centre’s fulfilment of the social objective for which it was constituted”, Cuban president Raul Castro told the National Assembly in July 2008.

In a panel discussion on work in Cuba published by Cuba’s Bohemia magazine on October 13, 2010, Cuban researcher Jose Ramon Fabelo asked:

“If I'm not able to decide what is produced, nor to
what end, nor participate in management, in planning, and much of the time what I earn is not related to what I do, what sense of ownership am I going to have, am I going to extract this out of pure ideology? Sometimes yes, but not in the majority of cases... 

“We've often debated between these two extremes, between moral or material incentives, consciousness or money. I consider this contraposition to be very anti-dialectical. 

"We need to harmonise the two, and I would caution: today we cannot go to the extreme of hoping that economic mechanisms by themselves will stimulate and restore the value of work to its rightful place. Educational, pedagogical, political and juridical work is very important in the here and now.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Translation: PCC Conference document (5)

Here is the final instalment of my translation of this draft document. 

For more on the PCC's work among youth, see Raul Castro's speech to the closing session of the Union of Young Communists (UJC) Ninth Congress in April 2010.

First National Conference of the Cuban Communist Party

Draft basic document

Translation: Marce Cameron (Part 5 of translation)

Chapter 4: The Party’s relations with the UJC and the mass organisations

Union of Young Communists (UJC)

80. Ensure that the Party’s structures are linked systematically with those of the UJC at all levels, devising more effective work styles with a view to strengthening the capacity of the UJC to carry out political work through its militants.

81. Focus the work of the UJC on attending to the Pioneers[1], adolescents and youth to contribute, without improvisation and with objectivity, to the formation of values and convictions. Carry out activities, free from schemas and dogmas, with the aim of them adopting a correct social conduct.

82. Ensure that the method and forms of selecting cadres as well as the functioning of its structures, in particular its base organisations, are the lifeblood of the UJC’s communication with and influence among the youth, based on the personal example of its militants and their contribution to defending the Revolution in the sectors in which they carry out political work.

83. Improve the quality of the ordinary meetings of the UJC base committees. The evaluation of essential matters based on its own perspective and approaches must be encouraged, so that the members involve and motivate as many youth as possible.

84. Prioritise work in the education sector, including specific actions in the academic and intellectual sphere, the universities and the study centres. Ensure that the talent that is cultivated in these sectors is put at the service of the people.

85. Transform, with new methods and greater flexibility, the UJC’s work with the Pioneers organisation, the high school students federation and the university students federation. Facilitate them taking up their respective missions and earning the necessary greater recognition of students, so that students feel that these organisations represent, support and accompany them in their studies.

86. Evaluate the benefits of raising the minimum age for UJC membership to 16 years, with a view to future members being better prepared for admission. Likewise, extend the maximum age of membership to 35 years.

87. Assist the enrollment of youth in the technical and trades schools. Attend to those who are beginning their working lives and those who work in the non-state [i.e. self-employment, small business and cooperative] sector.

88. Strengthen the work of the UJC in the productive sector, identifying and attending to youths who may be prospective members. Achieve membership growth as a result of this approach.

89. Promote recreational spaces with the participation of the Pioneers and student organisations, taking into account the available resources. Forms that contribute to the development and wholesome recreation of children, adolescents and youth will be favoured.

90. Improve the youth publications, so that their articles and materials are more influential among children and youth and respond to the needs, tastes and interests of these age groups.

91. Evaluate the calls to participate in national events promoted by the UJC and the student federations and limit them to those that are essential.

Mass organisations

92. Redouble the attention given by the Party to these organisations, with a more rounded influence on their cadres and structures. Emphasise the responsibility and training of the base committees in order to carry out their tasks in the workplaces and communities.

93. Achieve a relationship between the Party and these organisations that is free from formalism, with ongoing feedback regarding the interests, viewpoints and proposals of their members on issues of paramount importance and priority at the national level.

94. When undertaking tasks of a strategic nature for the country or a region or locality, the Party should consider providing information to and involving the corresponding mass organisations in these tasks.

95. Encourage and support the participation of the trade union and National Association of Small Farmers cadres in the assemblies of members and associates. Contribute to these assemblies through the active role of the Party militants.

96. Support the work of the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution and the Federation of Cuban Women and that of their neighbourhood committees through the active participation of the local Party militants.

With regard to the paragraphs above in relation to the mass organisations, it should be clarified that, as part of the preparatory work prior to the Conference, the national leaderships of these organisations carried out a consultation process on their content, structures and functioning. This entailed a broad exchange with their cadres and members down to the base level, after which they will undertake to carry out the necessary transformations and changes.

97. The militants of the PCC and the UJC, as members of one of more of these organisations, are in a position to contribute their opinions in this regard. In this respect, they should refer in their interventions to the issues relating to the content, practices, work methods and responsibilities of each of the mass organisations in the current conditions, so that these organisations are better able to fulfil their functions in relation to the social sectors they represent.


Translator's footnote:

[1] Socialist Cuba’s mass organisation of children and young adolescents

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Translation: PCC Conference document (4)

First National Conference of the Cuban Communist Party

Draft basic document

Translation: Marce Cameron (Part 4 of translation)

Chapter 3: Cadre policy

68. Ensure that cadres have solid technical-professional training; proven ethical, political and ideological qualities; and that they uphold the principles enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic and in the Party’s policies, whether or not they are members of the PCC or the UJC.

69. Promote the emergence of cadres from the grassroots though direct contact with the masses and experience in the workplace. Promotion to higher responsibilities must be gradual, taking into account their performance.

70. Achieve a progressive and sustained increase in women, blacks, mestizos and youth in leadership positions based on the merit, performance and personal qualities of those proposed.

71. Project the gradual renewal of leading personnel and define the limits of office in terms of duration and age, according to the functions and complexities of each post. Limit the holding of the highest political and state posts to a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms.

72. Encourage, in the leadership style of the cadres, greater agility and initiative in decision-making; intransigence in the face of violations [i.e. of legality and ethical conduct] and breaches of discipline; systematic contact with the masses; and a high degree of political and human sensitivity in their conduct.

73. Systematically ensure the selection and training of the cadre reserve. Demand responsibility on the part of those whom it is incumbent upon to train their subordinates, on the basis of their personal example.

74. Demand that cadres comply with the law and, where applicable, that those who breach the law be brought to justice.   

75. Facilitate the selective rotation of political cadres with a view to rounding out their training through exercising administrative and governmental responsibilities. Also facilitate administrative and government leaders moving on to political responsibilities, to the same end.   

76. Improve the Party’s attention to and supervision of the application of the cadre policy for state and government cadres, respecting the authority and responsibility of leaders and their leadership bodies in adopting the decisions that fall within their jurisdiction.

77. Ensure that cadres have the indispensable working conditions for carrying out their functions. Promote their social recognition and implement measures to make possible their relocation when they conclude their professional duties in the political or mass organisations or in elected government leadership positions. 

78. Ensure that the cadre evaluation system makes an objective assessment of the personal conduct of cadres, the results they obtain in their areas of responsibility and their degree of political development.    

 79. Strengthen the role of the Party Schools System, prioritising the work of the municipal schools in the education of political cadres and the pool of reserve cadres. In the improvement strategy to be drawn up the indispensable prior training of those who occupy posts, in accordance with the requirements and functions of these positions, will be considered.

[Translation to be continued]

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Translation: PCC Conference document (3)

This chapter of the draft PCC National Conference document includes several paragraphs that are worth drawing attention to. 

Paragraph 34 is an example of what Temas magazine editor Rafael Hernandez pointed out in his radio interview that I translated: the political implications of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines, one of which is that the decentralisation of economic management towards the state enterprises and the municipalities permits, and at the same time necessitates, a political revitalisation of the People's Power local governments. 

Point 45 about the need to combat prejudices against the "non-state" (i.e. small-scale private and cooperative) sector is aimed primarily at those within the PCC who think that opening the door to small-scale private and cooperative enterprise is incompatible with socialist construction, a dogmatic misconception that flows from decades of socialist state ownership and centralised management of almost the entire economy.  

Hence the importance of paragraph 60, which calls for opening up spaces for debate on Marxism-Leninism to clarify what it is and isn't, and paragraph 62, which specifies the need to "work in particular on the conceptualisation of the theoretical foundations of the Cuban economic model". In December, Marino Murillo, chair of the permanent government commission charged with coordinating the implementation of the Guidelines, told the National Assembly that progress had made on the elaboration of such a document.

Also noteworthy is paragraph 54 on combating prejudices of various kinds. This is the first time a PCC document of this kind makes an explicit reference to the need to combat prejudice in the area of sexual orientation. Paragraph 65 takes up the need to reflect "the Cuban reality in all its diversity" on TV and in film. Again, sexual orientation is specified. See my translation of a recent interview with Mariela Castro for more on this.

First National Conference of the Cuban Communist P

Draft basic document

Translation: Marce Cameron (Part 3 of translation)

Chapter 2: Political and ideological work

37. Strengthen national unity around the Party and the Revolution to preserve the Cuban nation and the socio-economic achievements of these years, on the basis that the homeland, the Revolution and socialism are indissolubly fused.

38. Stimulate the conscious participation of the people in the implementation of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines for the Party and the Revolution because the sustainability and preservation of our socialist system depend on their implementation.

39. Enhance the ethical and productive character of work as a means of contributing to society and the satisfaction of personal and family needs.

40. Systematically evaluate the impact of the economic and social measures and draw timely attention to distortions in their implementation that hinder the attainment of the stated objective.

41. Raise awareness of the fact that saving resources of all kinds is one of the principal sources of income for the country.

42. Promote care for goods and resources, the practice of internal monitoring and quality of productive processes and products in enterprises, the budgeted sector and other social and economic entities.

43. Encourage real and effective participation in the execution of projects that stimulate initiative and provide tangible benefits in terms of local development.

44. Promote economic, legal, taxation and ecological awareness among the people. Strive for knowledge of and respect for the law, and for honest and administratively responsible conduct.

45. Improve political attention to those involved in various forms of non-state [i.e. small-scale private or cooperative] economic management and combat the existing prejudices towards them.

46. Carry out political and ideological work in a differentiated, personalised and continuous manner, based on the specifics of each locality, with the use of more diverse and effective methods, forms and means of communication.

47. Perfect political and ideological work among youth in order to fully involve them in the economic and social transformations, using attractive and participatory methods in accordance with their needs, interests and expectations.

48. Develop strategies aimed at preventing and dealing with the enemy’s [i.e. US imperialism’s] campaigns and actions, open or covert, that attempt to undermine revolutionary ideology, exacerbate selfishness and erode values, identity and national culture.

49. Make the most of the advantages of information and communications technologies as tools for the development of knowledge, the economy and ideological activity. Convey Cuba’s image and its reality, as well as combating subversive [propagandistic] actions against our country.

50. Combat energetically every manifestation of corruption, indiscipline[1] and unethical or illegal action. Strengthen popular control and collective action in the face of any manifestation of impunity.

51. Promote an attitude and conduct consistent with the values espoused by the Revolution, on the basis of achieving greater coherence between the contributions of the family, the educational and cultural institutions, the community and the mass media.

52. Better instruct parents and reinforce the paramount role of the family in childhood education. Cultivate dignified and solidaristic attitudes. Confront gender violence, violence within the family and in the community.

53. Reaffirm that the educational institutions are centres for the cultivation of ethical values and of respect for institutionalism and the law, where the example set by the teaching personnel is decisive. Promote love for work as one of the fundamental values, as well as civic, moral and aesthetic education.

54. Confront racial, gender, religious, sexual orientation and other prejudices that may give rise to any form of discrimination or limit the exercise of people’s rights, among them those with public positions and those who participate in the political and mass organisations[2] and in the defence of the country.

55. Consolidate the Revolution’s cultural policy, defined by Fidel from since his 1961 “Words to the Intellectuals”[3] and characterised by the democratisation of access to culture, the defence of identity and heritage, and the active participation of intellectuals and artists in a climate of unity and freedom [of expression].

56. Ensure that cultural projects, aimed at the spiritual enrichment of our people, exclude commercialism and other approaches of a different kind that depart from cultural policy.

57. Promote f
rank and open artistic and literary criticism, with an emphasis on the weakness and virtues of the cultural work, so that criticism contributes to achieving the quality that is aspired to and preserves our identity and respect for traditions. 

58. Work in conjunction with the cultural institutions, the mass media, programme directors and audiences and artists and intellectuals to avoid cultural expressions that offend the dignity of people or the sensibilities of our population. Taking into account their aesthetic tastes, influence them so as to promote, on a massive scale, the capacity for artistic and literary appreciation, as well as to cultivate ethical and aesthetic values.

59. Stress the ethical, humanistic and anti-imperialist legacy of Jose Martí as an essential foundation of revolutionary practice.

60. Adapt the teaching of Marxism-Leninism to the present conjuncture and to the requirements of the various levels of education; promote spaces for debate on Marxism-Leninism.

61. Perfect the teaching of and the diffusion of understanding about Cuban history, in the strategic interests of strengthening national unity and promoting awareness of the origin and development of the nation; an in the interests of the consolidation of the Cuban intellectual tradition, guided by the notion of justice and the patriotic, solidaristic and internationalist tradition of our people.

62. Develop and make greater use of social research and socio-political and opinion studies in every sphere and sector of national life. Work in particular on the conceptualisation of the theoretical foundations of the Cuban economic model.

63. Transform the current system of training and political information for PCC cadres and militants, workers and the population. Ensure content relevant to the needs of the different social sectors or groups, in accordance with current social conditions.

64. Confront manifestations of formalism, lack of creativity and obsolete criteria in the fields of journalism and propaganda. Give particular attention to the diversity of audiences.

65. Reflect, in audio-visual media [e.g. TV, cinema], the Cuban reality in all its diversity with regard to the economic, work and social situation and that of gender, race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation and ethnicity.

66. Communicate in an opportune, objective, systematic and transparent manner the Party’s policy on advancing the revolutionary project and the difficulties, weaknesses and adversities that we must face up to, doing away with the harmful expressions of secrecy.

67. Encourage the mass media to be an effective stage for culture and debate, to open the doors to knowledge and to offer analysis and the permanent expression of opinion. Cultivate a journalism that is objective and investigative and that stamps out self-censorship, mediocrity, bureaucratic and saccharine language, facileness, rhetoric, triumphalism and banality. 

[Translation to be continued]
Translator's footnotes:

[1] Presumably in an
 institutional context 

[2] In official discourse, “the political organisations” refers to the PCC and the UJC. “Mass organisations” refers to sectoral organisations such as the trade unions, the Federation of Cuban Women, the National Association of Small Agriculturalists, and so on.

[3] A reference to a well-known speech in which Fidel Castro summarised the Revolution’s cultural policy as follows: “Within the Revolution, everything; against the Revolution, nothing”. This was interpreted rather narrowly in the 1970s during the height of Soviet influence, when there was heavy state censorship. Today,  intellectuals and artists enjoy greater freedom of expression than ever before in revolutionary Cuba.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Translation: PCC Conference document (2)

First National Conference of the Cuban Communist Party

Draft basic document

Translation: Marce Cameron (Part 2 of translation; Part 1 is here)


Below are the objectives that must be prioritised in Party activity with a view to resolving the fundamental problems and deficiencies of its work, together with others that flow from the new challenges faced by the Party.

Chapter 1: Functioning, methods and style of Party work

1. Promote the members of the Party committees at all levels playing a decisive role in the discussion and adoption of the most important decisions that are the Party’s responsibility. Ensure that they have prior knowledge of the issues and that they play an active role in the analysis carried out by the party body, and that they have the information to allow them to discharge their duties and responsibilities effectively.

2. Introduce the principle that the members of the Party committees at all levels must tender their resignation from the committee in question when they judge that the reasons for which they were elected no longer exist, without this being considered a reprehensible attitude or cause for disrepute.

3. Ensure that in the ordinary meetings of the Party bodies and the base committees, matters related to the implementation of and compliance with the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines for the Party and the Revolution, and the execution of the economic plan or the assigned budget, are addressed as a matter of priority and are dealt with systematically, and that the role of the Party itself in this regard is critically appraised.

4. Promote and require a better understanding and observance of the documents that regulate the party’s activity by its bodies, base committees and militants.

5. Provide more information to the militants, workers and the population about the analyses and decisions of Party bodies regarding the economic and social life of the provinces and the municipalities.

6. Evaluate, with a view to rationality, the reduction of the number of matters or topics referred to the various levels of the Party for discussion in meetings, as well the entire existing system of information and documentation from the Central Committee to the base.

7. Strengthen, in the Party structures, measures aimed at preventing and confronting instances of social misconduct, illegalities, corruption and other crimes.

8. Reduce the number of permanent commissions of Party bodies to what is strictly necessary. This does not exclude those that are established temporarily to deal with specific issues.

9. Improve the system for planning the work of Party bodies, their cadres and the base organisations, ensuring that it is adjusted to the characteristics, specific content and responsibilities of the various levels of leadership.

10. Comprehensively revise the supervision and advisory system used by the Central Committee and the provincial and municipal committees with regard to subordinate levels of leadership.

11. Confront the tendency to carry out supervision and follow-up of the tasks that are the Party’s responsibility though meetings. Encourage direct contact with those responsible and other workers at the coalface. 

12. Foster in the Party and other institutions an appropriate work environment that facilitates and promotes respect and mutual confidence as prerequisites for dialogue, debate and criticism, and ensure a work style that is ever-more participatory and democratic in terms of decision-making.

13. Encourage criticism and self-criticism, based on the principle that everyone in the Party has the right to criticise and nobody is above criticism, and eliminate the practice of accepting self-criticisms that are in reality attempts to justify the unjustifiable. Disciplinary measures should be in accordance with the concept expressed by Fidel that we should be neither tolerant nor implacable.

14. Demand that in the [public] institutions and within the Party itself, the complaints and denunciations of the population are given due and timely attention, and that the responses are furnished with the required swiftness and rigour.

15. Uphold the time-frame established in the Statutes for the convening of Party Congresses[1]. Their postponement due to the threat of war, natural disasters and other exceptional circumstances must be approved by the Central Committee Plenum and reported to the militants.

16. Hold Central Committee Plenums at least twice a year. Among key agenda items must be the analysis and implementation of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines for the Party and the Revolution, the fulfilment of the economic plan and the state budget in the corresponding period, matters relating to the Party itself, defence preparations and other topics of national and international interest.

17. Review the concepts and methods pertaining to leadership and to organisations at the base level, especially the work of the instructor.

18. Improve the organisation and content of the meetings of the executive bureaux of the municipal Party committees with the general secretaries of the base organisations.

19. Continue developing and improving the attention given by activists to political processes and other tasks, outside of work hours as a rule.

20. Consolidate the system of activists who attend to the militants in their residential areas, with a view to increasing their participation and influence in the neighbourhood, and enhance the role of the professional cadres in the guidance and oversight of this work.

21. Improve and streamline the Auxiliary Structure of the Central Committee and the intermediate leadership organisations, in accordance with the content of their work in the present and future conditions.

22. Strengthen the role of the Party committees in the workplaces and the attention they receive from the higher Party bodies, so that the workplace committees lead and oversee the cells[2] that are subordinate to them in a more comprehensive and effective manner, together with their other responsibilities. 

23. Ensure that the Party base organisations concentrate their efforts on the efficient fulfilment of local activities. To this end they should organise and develop their core political-ideological activities and be directly responsible for demanding the exemplary conduct of their militants, regardless of the office they may hold.

24. Require that the key problems that arise in the workplaces or communities are given immediate attention by the militants in these places, without them having to wait for directives or the intervention of higher Party bodies.

25. Ensure that the general secretary of the base organisation is the most suitable person for this post. Make use, where necessary, of the right of the municipal Party organisation to submit proposals in this regard.

26. Ensure that, as a rule, the militants carry out Party tasks in their respective Party cells, based on a rational assessment of their responsibilities and abilities.

27. Maintain accountability sessions for militants as means of evaluating, in a rational manner, their conduct in the labour, political and social spheres.

28. Improve the running of coordination meetings, called by the Party, that involve the administrative, trade union and UJC leaderships of the workplaces in order to join forces for the fulfilment of the plans or other activities of common interest.

29. Step up direct political attention by the Secretariat, the Auxiliary Structure of the Central Committee and the provincial Party committees, where applicable, to the Party base organisations of the Central State Administration Agencies and other institutions at the national and provincial levels, as well as those of the UJC leadership bodies and the leaderships of the mass and social organisations. The tasks related to the internal life of the Party will continue to be taken up by the municipal committees in which these base organisations are located.

30. Establish mixed cells (that include Party and UJC militants) in centres where there are few UJC militants or where it is considered useful in order to strengthen political and ideological work. The student sector is excluded.

31. Empower the executive bureau of the municipal committee to authorise a different frequency of ordinary meetings in regional cells, where necessary due to the nature of the localities in which they operate or the personal limitations of the militants.

32. Eliminate the practice of entrusting locality-based cells with tasks that are the responsibility of other organisations and institutions, as well as the tendency for the cells to assume these tasks on their own initiative.

33. Reaffirm that admission to the Party is voluntary and is based on the principles of exemplariness and always consulting with the masses, where the quality of this consultation is paramount in ensuring that it is recognised by the people.

34. Deactivate[3] militants who are obliged to join a locality-based Party cell but due to retirement or work, personal or family circumstances decline to do so.

35. Grant Party base organisations with seven or more militants the power to issue a caution as a disciplinary measure, without the need to seek ratification from the higher Party body.

36. Empower the municipal committee executive bureau to ratify expulsion from the Party in cases of proven betrayal of the country.

[Translation to be continued]
Translator's footnotes:

[1] According to the PCC Statues, national Congresses are supposed to be held at five year intervals. Since the founding Congress in 1975, a further five Congresses were held in 1980, 1986, 1991, 1997 and 2011.

[2] The núcleos, cells, are the smallest units in the PCC’s hierarchical structure. Base committees in workplaces, study centres and neighbourhoods comprise numerous cells. The party is also organised at the municipal, provincial and national levels.

[3] Acco
rding to the PCC’s Regulations document (Introduction, p. 31), “deactivation” is a category of honourable termination of membership when a militant is judged to no longer possess the qualities that were the basis for their admission to the PCC and they have lost the “drive” to carry out the Revolution’s tasks.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Translation: PCC Conference document (1)

From January 28 the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) will hold its first National Conference. This important gathering will complement the Sixth PCC Congress, held in April, that adopted the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines

The Sixth Congress, the highest decision-making body of the PCC, focused on the "updating" of Cuba's socialist-oriented economic model and tasked the Conference with reviewing and improving the Party's methods and work style, in terms of both its internal functioning and its relationship with other revolutionary organisations and with Cuban society as a whole.

In the lead-up to the Conference the PCC leadership has submitted the following document for consideration by the Party's ordinary members or "militants". The PCC has more than 800,000 members. In addition, the PCC invited the communist youth and the mass sectoral organisations — such as the trade unions, the Federation of Cuban Women and the neighbourhood-based Committees for the Defence of the Revolution — to analyse the draft document and contribute to its refinement. 

Given that the vast majority of Cuban citizens belong to one or more of these organisations, the PCC leadership has initiated a consultation process that is open to both PCC members and non-members who are part of its broad social base. However, it appears that Cuban media coverage of these debates and the issues under discussion has been minimal in comparison to coverage of the public debates on the Guidelines. 

Comparing this draft document with a final version that will be put to the vote of Conference delegates will reveal more about the content of these debates and how they shaped the outcome of the Conference.

A few introductory comments on the PCC itself.

Article 5 of Cuba's socialist constitution, adopted by referendum in 1975, establishes the PCC's role in society as follows: 

The Communist Party of Cuba, Martían [i.e. inspired by Jose Martí] and Marxist-Leninist, organised vanguard of the Cuban nation, is the highest leading force in society and the state, organising and guiding common efforts towards the lofty goals of building socialism and progress toward a communist society.

The PCC embodies Jose Martí's dream of uniting Cuba's revolutionary vanguard in a single party, thus overcoming the divisions among revolutionaries that contributed to the failure of Cuba's 19th century independence struggles to achieve real national sovereignty.

From Lenin's ideas and example the PCC derives the notion of a voluntary, selective organisation of the most capable and committed revolutionaries; a disciplined party that combines democratic discussion and decision-making with a united approach to the implementation of party decisions; and a party based not on bureaucratic privilege and authoritarianism but on moral authority, persuasion and the power of example. 

This is the Leninist spirit in which the PCC leadership has called upon the party as a whole to rise to the new, complex and exceedingly difficult challenges posed by Cuba's socialist renewal. 

Here is the first instalment of my translation of this 97-paragraph resolution (excluding the introductory paragraphs below). Footnotes follow the text. I'm not aware of any other English translation of this document. If you know of one, please let me know.  

Cover of the Spanish version

First National Conference of the Cuban Communist Party

Draft basic document

Translation: Marce Cameron (Part 1 of translation)  

* * *

Basis of the Party


I. Functioning, methods and style of Party work

2. Political and ideological work

3. Cadre policy

4. The Party’s relations with the Union of Young Communists (UJC) and the mass organisations

*  *  *
Basis of the Party 

The Cuban Communist Party (PCC) is the legitimate fruit of the Revolution and at the same time its vanguard that ensures, together with the people, its historical continuity. Comrade Fidel Castro, Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolution, set out his conception of the Party during the First PCC Congress[1] when he said:

The Party brings everything together. In it are synthesised the dreams of all the revolutionaries throughout our history; in it are concretised the ideas, the principles and the strength of the Revolution; in it our individualism disappears and we learn to think in terms of the collective. It is our educator, our teacher, our guide and our vigilant conscience when we ourselves are unable to see our errors, our defects and our limitations. In the Party we join our efforts and we make of each one of us a Spartan warrior of the most noble of causes, and together we become an invincible giant.

These concepts sum up o
ur thinking and action and guide us in our determination to build a fully free and sovereign society, as expressed in our Constitution of the Republic. 

The principles of democratic centralism, collective leadership and individual responsibility retain, a
s pillars of the Party and its structure, their full validity and underpin the will to perfect it. 

As the sole party of the Cuban nation, the Marxist, Leninist and Martían[2] Cuban Communist Party draws strength from, and has as its principal mission, the unity of all patriots and the linking up of their efforts towards the lofty objectives of building socialism, preserving the achievements of the Revolution and continuing to struggle for our dreams of justice for Cuba and for all of humanity.

1. Introduction

1.1 The National Party Conference, convened by the Sixth Party Congress[3], is tasked with evaluating the work of the organisation objectively and critically, as well as defining, with a will to renewal, the necessary transformations so that it is equal to the demands of the present circumstances.

1.2 The Main Report to the Sixth PCC Congress stated: “[...] we must reflect on the counterproductive effects of old habits that have nothing to do with the vanguard role of the organisation in society, among them the superficiality and formalism with which political-ideological work is conducted; the use of antiquated methods and terms that do not take into account the level of education of the militants; and the holding of unnecessarily long and frequent meetings that often take place during the work day, which must be considered sacred, first and foremost by the communists; meeting agendas that are often inflexible, set by the higher Party body without reflecting the concrete reality of the militants; the frequent calls to attend formal commemorative activities, with speeches that are even more formal, and the organisation of voluntary work on days off without real content nor proper coordination, generating expenditures and spreading dissatisfaction and apathy among our compañeros”.

1.3 The Sixth Congress endorsed the idea that the first thing we are obliged to modify in the life of the Party is the mentality that, as a psychological barrier, will be the most difficult thing to overcome as it is bound up with dogmas and obsolete criteria.

1.4 It is important to recognise that at different times the Party involved itself in tasks that did not correspond to it, which limited its leadership role and compromised its political and ideological work. We also have to deal with problems such as ignorance, disregard for the guiding documents of the Party and deficiencies in the exercise of the Party’s functions and powers, lack of analytical rigour and inconsistent application of the adopted policy, which prevents the Party from achieving the hoped-for results of its work.

1.5 The present challenges demand, above all, the linking up of all the means and forces at our disposal in order to strengthen the patriotic and moral unity of the people; to cultivate revolutionary values and conduct; to open up to legitimate individual and collective aspirations; and to confront prejudice and discrimination of all kinds that still persist in society.

1.6 The imperialists pin their hopes on the supposed vulnerability of the new generations and on certain groups or sectors of society. They try to foment division, apathy, discouragement, emigration and lack of confidence in the leadership of the Revolution and the Party. They try to paint us as a society without a future in order to turn back socialism and snatch away our independence and the gains of the Revolution. These intentions make it crystal clear that the sphere of ideas continues to be a decisive battlefront.

1.7 These circumstances, to which must be added the manifestations of the new interventionist policy, an aggressive policy that justifies the use of force by the US empire, make it necessary to continue to give maximum attention to defense preparations and to strengthening political-ideological work in the armed institutions.

1.8 Against this backdrop we must foster a climate of maximum confidence and create the necessary conditions at all levels for the broadest and most sincere exchange of opinions, both within the Party and in its relations with the workers and the people. This would allow the expression of diverse ideas and concepts in a framework of respect and compromise[4], such that disagreements are seen as something natural.

1.9 The Main Report to the Sixth Congress took up the errors and weaknesses in the cadre policy, referring essentially to the lack of foresight and intentionality in its handling and consistent application; the lack of rigour and vision that led to the rapid promotion of immature and inexperienced cadres; the lack of political will and of a sufficiently systematic approach to the promotion of women, blacks, mestizos[5] and youth to key leadership posts, on the basis of merit and personal qualities, as well as deficiencies in the selection and preparation of a reserve of cadres.

1.10 Lack of foresight, irresponsibility and sluggishness in the search for solutions to the disparate problems that have to be dealt with on a daily basis can be seen in the 
work style of no few cadres, as well as lack of creativity; poor links with the masses; lack of a demanding attitude in the face of violations and indiscipline; and bureaucratic methods of leadership and the consequent loss of authority and exemplariness due to negative, on occasion corrupt, attitudes. 

1.11 Priority must be given to targeted, direct, person-to-person work, and to the role of the mass media in political and ideological work; to tackling deficiencies in the training of Party militants and to the deterioration of certain fundamental values as revealed in their conduct, together with the insufficient utilisation of the various educational means at the Party's disposal.

1.12 On the other hand, the population that the Party interacts with is older and more heterogeneous. Today's youth did not experience the old capitalist society and have only known the exceptional conditions of the Special Period. The majority of them have an elevated educational and cultural level and are better trained politically, so communication with this generation must be more creative, systematic and targeted.

1.13 The Party must step up its efforts to confront the causes and conditions that favour instances of social misconduct, illegalities, corruption and other crimes, phenomena which — together with bureaucratism and negligence — undermine the foundations of our society.

1.14 A review of the concepts and work methods of the Party in its relations with the Union of Young Communists (UJC) and the mass organisations is also an objective of this Conference.

1.15 Given the role played by the UJC and the mass organisations, and their present and future importance, the Party’s attention to these organisations must be redoubled. At times, the Party’s methods in this regard have been paternalistic and the relationship has been one of Party tutelage; at other times we have incorrectly assigned them shared tasks and functions that do not correspond to them. In this regard, it is reaffirmed that the Party must exercise its leadership role on the basis of respect for their democratic and autonomous functioning.

1.16 In evaluating the work of these organisations, it is evident that it was distorted and that work at the grassroots level ceased to be prioritised. The participation of these organisation's  cadres in an excessive number of commissions and meetings limited their work at the grassroots. To this must be added the lack of creativity and a systematic approach to the carrying out of their responsibilities, and excessive calls on members to participate in activities at the expense of their free time, to the annoyance of the population.

1.17 The opinions and proposals arising from this consultation will enrich the draft document, which will be submitted for consideration of the National Conference, after which an implementation process will be drawn up with the aim of improving the Party’s work and making it more effective.

[Translation to be continued]

Translator's footnotes:

] The First PCC Congress was held in 1975 

[2] Meaning: inspired by Jose Martí, a leader of Cuba’s 19th century independence struggles and an initiator of the pro-independence Cuban Revolutionary Party in 1892.

[3] Held in April 2011

[4] "Commitment" is an alternative, and also equally plausible, translation of compromiso here 

[5] Mestizo: a person of "mixed race"

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Translation: Viability of socialism debate

Here is a further contribution to the debate on the viability of socialism. It follows from the previous post. Omar Alvarez Dueñas is a professor at Sagua la Grande University, Villa Clara Province, Cuba.

On the “unviability of socialism” debate

By Omar Alvarez Dueñas

Temas magazine, October 20, 2011

Translation: Marce Cameron

I’ve read with great interest the debate in 
Temas No. 65 on the Special Period and the resulting controversy between Professor Carmelo Mesa-Lago – I’ve read other recent works of his – and the economist Jose Luis Rodriguez, economy minister during those years. I’d like to offer my modest opinion on this debate. 

One issue in the debate concerns central planning, decentralisation versus centralisation, and the market. In an economy such as Cuba’s, with a history of dependence on Spain as a colony, on the US as a neo-colony and attachment to the USSR and the socialist camp (for better or worse) during the first 30 years of the Revolution – and consequently a distorted, underdeveloped and technologically backward economy with an economic and social legacy in 1959 as described by Fidel Castro in History Will Absolve Me, and known by everybody – how could this problem be resolved? Who in the recent history of humanity has done it without planning? 

Much criticism has been levelled at the leadership and the socialist economy of the Revolution based on planning. Little has been said about the great merit of having lifted millions of Cubans out of poverty and achieving the social indicators of Cuba today, thanks to central planning, despite the mistakes that have been made. 

Thus for a poor, backward and blockaded country such as Cuba, centralised planning of its principal economic resources and activities is vital for survival as a nation and for advancing along the path of development. So I agree with the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines approved by the Sixth Communist Party (PCC) Congress that reaffirm the necessity for planning in economic management. 

Now, another controversial issue is how much planning and how much market. It’s clear that in the present historical circumstances monetary-mercantile relations, and hence the market, have an important role to play in the country’s economic development. I concur with the necessity for us to utilise the market in our socialism whenever it acts as a stimulus to the development of the productive forces, to productivity and work efficiency, but it must be strictly regulated given its inherent dangers which can harm the Revolution itself. 

In terms of centralisation and decentralisation, the key thing is to achieve the right balance. In the present historical conditions there are important economic policy decisions that should be centralised, and the [national] Economic Plan must be the axis around which all the economic forms [i.e. the state sector, joint ventures, cooperatives, small businesses, self-employment – translator’s note] are brought together. The real and difficult task for those that lead the country is to achieve a harmonious relationship between the plan and the market, between centralisation and decentralisation, in such a way that they complement each other for the development of the country. 

I think that the participation of the regions, especially the municipalities, in economic management must be strengthened to stimulate the economy. This is where the economic actors live, where the economy of the country is materialised, and during these years their hands have been tied in many respects, awaiting decisions “from above” to improve the living standards of their inhabitants. The updating of the model must keep this premise in mind if the desire is to successfully guide the Revolution through the new era it is now entering. 

Another issue in the debate is what type of socialism. Professor Mesa-Lago begins with the following proposition: “History has demonstrated the unviability of the socialism of the URSS and the Eastern European countries until the end of the 1980s”. What Professor Mesa-Lago forgets is also forgotten by others both within and outside Cuba: this socialism become the second biggest economic power in the world, defeated fascist aggression, and played a decisive role in the world revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa and even Latin America. 

Many criticisms of this socialism can be made from the economic, political and social point of view, but what we cannot forget is that what failed was not socialism as a system, but the people who built it, who distanced themselves more and more from the foundational ideals of socialism and were unable to reorient socialist construction through the criticism of errors, something that was perfectly possible. This would have had better results than the restoration of savage capitalism, which has resulted in the former USSR and the Eastern European countries being worse off than they were in the socialist era. Of course, the socialism that failed in the former USSR and Eastern Europe is not the socialism that we aspire to in Cuba. 

Professor Mesa-Lago continues: “I consider this socialism to be economically viable”, referring to that of China and Vietnam. The suspiciousness of the words “economically viable” may be missed if one reads this phrase in isolation, given that he goes on to say: “though I personally would like them to include more democratic methods and greater respect for human, civil and political rights”. Does this mean that in terms of political, civil and human rights the socialisms of China and Vietnam are not viable? Doesn’t a society have to be viable in all respects? What would Professor Mesa-Lago consider viable about the capitalism of the so-called Third World and that of the poorest countries in the world? 

The Chinese and Vietnamese experiences are worth taking into account and we should apply what is applicable. Important studies have been carried out in Cuba in this regard but the economic, social and political conditions in these countries are completely different to Cuba’s. Moreover, in our revolutionary history we have already copied too much of the European experiences and it didn’t do us any good. Let’s take foreign experiences into account, but without copying. 

I agree with Jose Luis Rodriguez when he says: “Socialism aims for a political transformation that allows people to achieve a more rounded development in which social justice and solidarity are inherent features of the society that is aspired to.” I emphasise here that socialism is a new society that often advances by trial and error, and with backward steps, from capitalist society in crisis – I hope this is clear to everybody – but not defeated, with great economic, political and military strength and with the mass media in its hands. It benefits from the effects of globalisation, conspiring against the consolidation of the new social regime. Let’s not forget that the same thing happened with nascent capitalism, with significant reversals and monarchical restorations until the new, revolutionary regime imposed itself on the then outmoded feudalism. 

Florida, the Bahamas and Cuba
I share Jose Luis Rodriguez’s vision of society above and I am convinced of the necessity to update the Cuban economic model in order to preserve and improve our socialism, but every change that is made that gives more scope to the market and private economic activity comes at a price and involves political and social risks. It’s the task of researchers to delve into their causes and consequences and to contribute to solutions, and the country must come up with strategies to deal with or minimise them in keeping with the society that we aspire to. 

It is evident Cuban society is undergoing a polarisation, which began in the 1990s. A petty bourgeoisie is emerging that always expressed itself ideologically, but is now being strengthened economically as a result of the changes that are underway. There are self-employed activities that generate considerable incomes, such as food services, the leasing of rooms and homes, and transport – now facilitated by the easing of restrictions on the buying and selling of motor vehicles and homes. There is also a small sector of professionals working for foreign firms, joint ventures or in areas with significant “leakage” [of convertible currency to workers, e.g. via tips for services] – as in tourism – who join this nascent petty bourgeoisie.

The present stage of our socialism is not altogether incompatible with this social sector, as long as the vital interests of the nation prevail over those of individuals. The same is true of the well-off peasants, who are necessary because of their efficiency. Above all, the country needs efficiency, productivity and production today, and these sectors can contribute to the country’s economic development. So we need to change our mindset and accept that the Cuba of the near future will not be the same as the Cuba we built for more than 50 years, but nor can we lose sight of the ultimate objective: the construction of socialism as the only way to live in a better world.

The challenges faced by socialist Cuba in the short term are associated with the increase in poverty[1], marginalisation and crime, administrative corruption[2] as a consequence of the role of monetary-mercantile relations and the impact of the economic crisis itself. Moreover, individual and social values are evolving towards a greater emphasis on the material and money, which necessitates a stepping up of educational efforts regarding all the social factors in order to consolidate those that are an integral part of the socialist society.

Finally, I consider viable the socialism that Cuba aspires to build. In my opinion the options for Cuba to survive as a nation and achieve the much-desired development lie within socialism, but a socialism stripped of dogmas, flexible and non-voluntarist in its economic management, one that places human beings and their integral development front and centre, one that adapts to the historical conditions in each moment, where the economic, the political and the social are in balance. 

Footnotes to the Spanish text:

[1] Cuban researchers accept that poverty and [economic] vulnerability intensified at the beginning of the 1990s as a consequence of the tightening of the US blockade of Cuba, the political and economic changes that occurred in the former USSR and Eastern Europe and the crisis of the Cuban economic model itself. For example, Lia Añe suggests: “Poverty in the capital [Havana] is characterised by insufficient monetary incomes, that limit the consumption of food and other essential goods and services. Poverty is also revealed in lack of housing [leading to overcrowding rather than homelessness in socialist Cuba – translator’s note] or the deterioration of housing or its facilities and of public transport. It is estimated conservatively that 20% of the population live in poverty” (Lia Añe Aguiloche, “Contribución a los estudios de pobreza en Cuba. Una caracterización de la capital”, see <>).

[2] Ramón de la Cruz Ochoa recognises the following regarding corruption: “We Cuban revolutionaries know that it is a grave reality that confronts our country, that it's a widespread phenomenon in our society and is not only a problem of corrupt managers and functionaries”. See “Acotaciones al texto del Dr. Fernando Barral sobre la corrupción en Cuba”, Catalejo section, Temas, May 20, 2010 [see my translation of de la Cruz Ochoa’s commentary here – translator’s note].