Wanted – Socialist System that Meets Real Needs
Analysis by Patricia Grogg
HAVANA, Aug 26 (IPS) – Cuba's communist government is being challenged
to move toward a more participative and inclusive socialist system, one
that offers real economic well-being and responds to the social and
political demands that have built up and been expressed in different
ways in recent years.
Although it has been postponed until further notice, the Sixth Congress
of the governing Cuban Communist Party (PCC), the only recognised party,
must meet this challenge in the context of an international crisis which
has aggravated the economic difficulties facing this Caribbean island
nation and has had a major impact on the living standards of its 11.2
In the view of some analysts, the crisis makes it even more urgent to
hold the PCC Congress, which normally meets every five years to evaluate
and lay down guidelines for solving the country's most pressing problems.
The Sixth Congress, postponed since 2002, had been announced for the end
of this year. However, the party's Central Committee decided to postpone
it until an analysis is carried out "with the entire population."
Meanwhile, a National Conference will be held at an as yet unspecified
date, to elect the new leadership of the PCC, including the Central
Committee, the Politburo and the Secretariat, which will be responsible
for continuing and finalising preparations for the Congress.
The Secretariat was abolished in the early 1990s after the collapse of
the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc, but was restored in 2006 to
strengthen the structure of the PCC. Its role is to organise and ensure
the fulfilment of the decisions of the party's highest authority, the
Many current members of the Central Committee no longer occupy the posts
they had when they were elected 12 years ago, at the Fifth PCC Congress
in 1997, while the Politburo and the Secretariat are still headed by
83-year-old Fidel Castro, who has not appeared in public since 2006 for
According to President Raúl Castro, who is Second Secretary of the PCC,
the task that lies ahead for the Communist Party and the Cuban people is
enormous, because it involves defining a socialist society that is
fitted to the country's aspirations, and that can be built "in Cuba's
present and future circumstances," as well as the economic model to be
"In other words, Cuba must change over from an old model – called 'real
socialism' – to one which really satisfies the needs of this country. I
think Raúl is aware of this historic need, and is trying to make it
happen," a former member of the PCC told IPS.
An academic source said the Cuban economic model has proved ineffective,
and still resembles "in essence the Soviet model, based on state
ownership of virtually the entire economy, and on centralisation of
resource allocation and price setting.
"The failure of real socialism in Eastern Europe and the persistent
inefficiency of our economy should prompt us to radically change our
model. We should not debate our problems in isolation from what has
happened in the rest of the world," said the economist, who requested
The changes regarded as necessary by some academic sectors include
transforming the management system within state enterprises, to allow
workers to receive a greater share of the profits and give managers more
independence in decision-making and price setting.
As well as changing the internal workings of state enterprises, the
framework in which they operate should be changed, with regulation
systems that permit greater autonomy and competition, and allow the
market to fix prices. "The market is an objective tool, it just needs to
be regulated by the state," the source said.
He also said it would improve the health of the economy to open up
property ownership beyond the state monopoly. The private sector and
cooperatives should extend their activities into services and small
industries. And opportunities for foreign investment should also be
expanded, for instance into the sugar sector, the researcher said.
In his view, "transformations should be conceived by studying the rest
of the world, looking at the best international experiences, and taking
as references, for example, the Chinese and Vietnamese models."
While he recognised that the Cuban economy requires a new approach,
Presbyterian pastor Raimundo García told IPS that the "profound changes"
needed in this country require, among other things, "that the PCC take
on what should be its primary role, and stop being a second tier of
government within the state."
The Cuban pastor said this implied that the political organisation
should "become a centre for research and debate, in which, focusing on a
common purpose, different opinions can be expressed by people
representing the different spheres of society, including civil society.
"Unanimity is non-existent, as our president has often said, and in any
case it would be bad for dialogue and decision-making," said García, who
is head of the Christian Centre for Reflection and Dialogue (CCRD) in
Cárdenas, 150 kilometres from Havana.
Article 5 of the constitution defines the PCC as "the highest leading
force of society and of the state, which organises and guides the common
effort toward the goals of the construction of socialism and progress
toward a communist society." The party has some 850,000 members.
President Castro, speaking to parliament early this month, said he was
elected to "defend, maintain, and continue to perfect socialism, not to
destroy it," which clarified the context and scope of the changes and
transformations that can be expected. However, he added that "it has to
be the people, with the party at the vanguard, that decides." Some
analysts take this as a hint that the future Sixth Congress may be
preceded by another popular consultation, like the broad public debate
carried out at neighbourhood and workplace meetings in 2007 to discuss
Castro's landmark Jul. 26 speech that year.
According to President Castro himself, these debates produced 1,301,203
concrete proposals, just under half of which expressed criticism. "The
results of that consultation have not been forgotten or discarded," said
Castro, who also mentioned that it had been conceived as a "rehearsal,
with the party's highest event in mind."
Among the many issues debated at those meetings were the dual currency
system, the real value of wages, the deteriorating quality of the
education system and public health services, and the limitations on
self-employment and private initiative. (END/2009)