ASCE is affiliated with the American Economic Association and the Allied Social Sciences Association of the United States, ASCE maintains professional contacts with economists inside Cuba—whether independent or associated with the Cuban government—who are interested in engaging in scholarly discussion and research.
“Order, Discipline and Exigency” 1 : Cuba's VIth Party Congress, the Lineamientos (Guidelines) and Structural Change In Education, Sport and Culture?Larry Catá Backer2Abstract: The Lineamientos de la política económica y social del partido y la Revolución approved April 2011 has the potential to significantly alter the social, economic and political organization of the Cuban state. Though they remain true to the fundamentals of the Marxist-Leninist State-Party system, the Lineamientos conceive anew the normative basis of state operation. This essay examines the Social Politics (Política Social) provisions of the Lineamientos. These target the great cultural-political achievements of the Revolution--medical care, education, culture, sport, social security, employment policy and state subsidies. In effect, these serve as the ideological heart, as well as the barometer of changes in the fundamental Party line and its effectuation. The essay starts with a consideration of the Linemamientos provisions of Política Social as they relate to education, health, sport and culture. It will consider these Guidelines in light of those initially proposed and explore the extent of the changes within the framework of the Lineamientoset as a whole. The second part of the essay examines what these changes suggest in terms of the place and character of education, sport and culture within evolving Cuban state policy and suggest what the changes may mean for the future course of the development of Cuban State-Party system. First, the Lineamientos themselves were developed in response to the recognition that the current economic model was both tied to the economic development needs of the State (as represented in the economic provisions of the Lineamientos themselves) and, like the current economic model, unsustainable in its present form. Second, Second, it is not clear how effective the State will be in bending education to the needs of Cuban industry. Third, it suggests that the earlier expenditure on brick and mortar projects—large school buildings and other substantial infrastructure, now has become something of a drag on the ability of the state to deliver education efficiently. Fourth, Cuba is now wrestling with the consequences of globalization and the technological revolution that made globalization possible. Fifth, the public focus on family involvement as a critical component of education, and education reform, cannot be exaggerated. Sixth, the Lineamientos reaffirms and continues the long tradition of centralized control of education and the importance of the political education of Cuban citizens in socialism. And lastly, the emphasis on the connection between education, culture, and sport and revenue generation can have a potentially significant effect on the delivery of these services to the population. More generally I will suggest that the education, sport and culture Lineamientos parallel similar issues facing developed states, including the United States.
By 2010, it had become clear to most significant actors within and outside of Cuba, that the current system of state organization, and in particular the economic model at the heart of half a century of a particular form of implementation of Revolutionary ideology, was not working. “Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has revealed for the first time that he believes Cuba's economic model does not work. Raul Castro, the country's president has made a similar blunt assessment a number of times before, but his revolutionary leader brother has never made such an admission.” (Now Comrade Castro admits Cuban economic system 'doesn't work' 2010). Something had to be done. That “something” came in the form, first of a limited opening up of sole proprietorships and small farm holding for Cubans. (Backer Sept. 24, 2010). It has culminated in one of the most public projects of Revolutionary change since the triumph of the 1959 Revolution, the Lineamientos de la política económica y social del partido y la Revolución. (Partido Comunista de Cuba April 18, 2011) (“Lineamientos”).
The Lineamientos or Guidelines were developed over a long period and was widely distributed for public comment in the autumn of 2010. Indeed, the Cuban state apparatus and media made much of the democratic consultation undertaken prior to the consideration of the Guidelines by the Party. “Como resultado del trabajo de la Comisión de Política Económica del VI Congreso Partido Comunista de Cuba, se elaboró el “Proyecto de Lineamientos de la Política Económica y Social” que será discutido con toda la militancia, los trabajadores y la población en general para recoger y tener en cuenta sus opiniones y posteriormente será sometido a la aprobación del VI Congreso.” (Descargue en Cubadebate el “Proyecto de Lineamientos de la política económica y social” (+ PDF) Nov. 9, 2010).
(From Purón Fonseca 2010) (picture Lorenzo Crespo Silveira) ("El carácter masivo de la discusión del Proyecto procede de que el Congreso será a la vez de la militancia y de todo el pueblo, como dijo Raúl al anunciar la convocatoria, para celebrarse en la segunda quincena de abril del 2011.") Id.)
The Cuban State distributed the draft Lineamientos widely outside of Cuba s as well. Highly placed Cuban academics and others were permitted to attend events outside of Cuba to explain the Lineamientos and generate discussion. Indeed, on the eve of the 6th Party Congress highly placed economists attended a conference in New York to discuss the Lineamientos and their potential impacts. (City University of New York April 2011). These included economists from the University of Havana’s prestigious Centro de Estudios de la Economía Cubana (Piñeiro Harnecker 2011; Vidal Alejandro 2011; Nova González 2011; and Pérez Villanueva 2011).The transparency and national consultation culminated in the consideration of the Lineamientos, and their unanimous approval, at the long postponed VIth Party Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba—the party in power in the Cuban state. The Party Congress was a well-staged event, planned to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion, As Raúl Castro noted in his speech closing the meeting:"Considero que la forma más digna y a la vez productiva de conmemorar el 50o Aniversario de la Victoria sobre la invasión mercenaria en Playa Girón, un día como hoy, el 19 de abril de 1961, es precisamente haber efectuado un magnífico Congreso del Partido, reunión que culmina tras algo más de cinco meses del inicio de las discusiones acerca de los Lineamientos, proceso de profundo carácter democrático y transparente, cuyo protagonismo indiscutible lo asumió el pueblo bajo la dirección del Partido." (Raúl Castro Ruz, April 19, 2011, at 2) 3
As approved by the VIth Party Congress, the Lineamientos consist of 313 Sections. Each provide suggestions for action that affected nearly every aspect of Cuban economic life, with consequential effects on social, cultural, educational and other sectors of activity that had been under the direction of the State. A companion booklet was also published: VI Congreso del Partido Comunista de Cuba, Información sobre el resultado del debate de los Lineamientos de la Política Económica y Social del Partido y la Revolución (Mayo de 2011) (Partido Comunista de Cuba May 2011) )(the “Tabloide”). The Tabloide presents a summary of the changes from the draft Lineamientos and the official reasons for the changes. Both are required reading for getting a sense of the cope and direction of the economic (and necessarily political) changes that are being contemplated in Cuba.
The Lineamientos serve as a detailed, though still general, basis for reordering the economic framework within which Cuban socialism is understood and ultimately applied to the construction of government, society and economy. They suggest the opening to potentially significant structural changes in Cuban economic policy. Archibald Ritter rightly notes that the Lineamientos are both necessary, given the impossible economic condition of Cuba, but also represents an effort to create a legacy for the Cuban Revolution that can survive the Castro brothers. "The “Lineamientos” represent an attempt by President Raul Castro to forge his own “legacy” and to emerge from the long shadow of his brother, as well as to set the Cuban economy on a new course. The ratification of the reform agenda represents a successful launch of the “legacy” project." (Ritter June 17, 2011). He concludes, however, that "President Raul Castro would indeed make a unique and valuable contribution to Cuba and its citizens were he to move Cuba definitively through dialogue and agreement among all Cubans towards a model that guarantees both economic and social rights as well as civil liberties and authentic democracy."(Id.).
One of the most unusual things about the Lineamientos is the lowered expectation that surrounded its approval. There was a grim sense among the leadership that the revolutionary potential of the Lineamientos might well be hostage to the Revolution itself. Raúl Castro captured the mood of the leadership well:no nos hacíamos ilusiones de que los Lineamientos y las medidas a ellos asociadas, por sí solos, fueran la solución a todos los problemas existentes. Para alcanzar el éxito en esta cuestión estratégica y en las demás, es preciso que de inmediato nos concentremos en hacer cumplir los acuerdos de este Congreso, bajo un denominador común en nuestra conducta: el ORDEN, la DISCIPLINA y la EXIGENCIA. (Raúl Castro Ruz April 19, 2011). 4Indeed, the expression “Order, Discipline and Exigency” best captures the tone and mood of the current Cuban Communist Party line that is at the center of this new effort to remake Cuba without betraying the fundamental normative structures on which the 1959 Revolution is based.Moreover, the scope and effect of the Guidelines remain highly contested. (Backer May 17, 2011). While the West greeted these changes as an opening to even greater economic (and ultimately political) changes (Lyman 2011), those closest to the centers of Party and State power suggested a much more conservative vision of the place of the Lineamientos. (Guerra 2011). Raul Castro emphasized both the limited nature of the reforms (despite their comprehensive scope) and the speed with which they will be implemented. “Raul Castro Closed the Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba. The First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (CPC) of Cuba Raul Castro said the . . . . main enemy is in our own shortcomings and therefore, in such a great task to the future of the country we will make needed changes if necessary as indicated Fidel and at the pace demanded by the circumstances.” (Embassy Of The Republic Of Cuba In The Kingdom Of Denmark 2011).
(Central Committee of the PCC; From Dalia Acosta, Carrera de obstáculos hacia la renovación, IPS, April 22, 2011 “Mientras no pocas personas lamentan que el VI Congreso del PCC cerrara sus puertas el pasado martes 19 con la presentación de un Buró Político integrado en su mayoría por la "vieja guardia", con 15 miembros y un promedio de edad de 67 años, otras indican que cualquier cambio real en este país dependerá fundamentalmente de nuevos modos de pensar.”).
(From Fidel Castro Ruz, April 18, 2011).
But it remains far from clear the extent to which Fidel Castro will support the actual efforts to implement the Guidelines, at least to the extent they substantially undo his own vision of state organization. Fidel Castro’s last words to the Party Congress in this respect are emblematic. Speaking of the members of the 6th Party Congress, Fidel Castro noted:“Por ello, persistir en los principios revolucionarios es, a mi juicio, el principal legado que podemos dejarle. No hay margen para el error en este instante de la historia humana. Nadie debe desconocer esa realidad. . . . La nueva generación está llamada a rectificar y cambiar sin vacilación todo lo que debe ser rectificado y cambiado, y seguir demostrando que el socialismo es también el arte de realizar lo imposible: construir y llevar a cabo la Revolución de los humildes, por los humildes y para los humildes, y defenderla durante medio siglo de la más poderosa potencia que jamás existió.” (Fidel Caastro Ruz, April 17, 2011). ["Thereforeto uphold revolutionary principlesis in my view, the main legacy we can leave you. There is no margin for error in this moment of human history. No one should ignore that reality. . . . The new generation is called upon to rectify and change without hesitation all that must be corrected and changed, and continue to demonstrate that socialism is also the art of the impossible: to construct and carry out the revolution of the humble by the humble and for the poor, and defend it for half a century of the most powerful country that ever existed."]While the Party developed and approved the Lineamientos, the State apparatus is charged with its implementation. (Partido Comunista de Cuba April 18, 2011, Implementacíon de los Lineamientos). The Guidelines will be implemented slowly over the next five years by a commission to be created by the government. (Id.)5. “Al Partido Comunista de Cuba corresponde la responsabilidad de controlar, impul- sar y exigir el cumplimiento de los Lineamientos aprobados por el VI Congreso del PCC en cualquier lugar que actúe.”6 (Id.). In addition, one can expect a number of informal efforts at implementation, as well as some dissonance between the rate of progress in key cities and in the more outlying areas of the nation. These insights have not been deep in the background of proceedings. They have served as the keynote of Raúl Castro’s closing speech to the VIth Congress and they are inherent in the analysis of Cuban academics (Pérez Villanueve 2011).
Though the focus of attention has been on the economic changes proposed in the Guidelines, few aspects of Cuban social, cultural and political life have been left untouched. Among the provisions found in the Guidelines are a small number that focus on what are called issues of Social Politics (Política Social). These target the great cultural-political achievements of the Revolution--medical care, education, culture, sport, social security, employment policy and state subsidies. The importance of these sectors cannot be underestimated both in the internal and external relations of the state and Party. At least since 1994, the Cuban government and the Party have stressed "the safeguarding of education and health as the basic accomplishments of the revolution." (Lutjens 1996, 5).
This essay examines the way in which the Lineamientos seek to bring change to the core of Cuban Revolutionary achievement, in the area grouped under the title Social Politics (Política Social)—education, medical care, culture, and sport. It focuses specifically on the Social Politics (Política Social) provisions of the Lineamientos relating to education, sport and culture. To a significant extent, these serve as an important part of the ideological heart of the Revolution, as well as a barometer of changes in the fundamental direction and application of the Party line and its effectuation. The treatment of these areas of Revolutionary achievement in the Lineamientos can suggest the extent and character of the fundamental changes that are being attempted and the extent to which these changes represent movement away form the core principles of the Revolution.
The essay starts with a description of the Linemamientos provisions touching on issues of Política Social as they relate to education, with a secondary look at the related provisions affecting health, sport and culture. It will consider these Guidelines in light of those initially proposed and explore the extent of the changes within the framework of the Lineamientos as a whole. The second part of the essay will focus on analysis. The education provisions are less about the mechanics of education as they are an acknowledgement of education in the service of a state in which a smaller number of young must support a larger number of pensioners. (Gonzalez & McCarthy 2004, 71-78). "In sum, although Cuba's changing demographic structure would appear to indicate that resources should be shifted from the youth to the aged, such a policy would appear to be short-sighted: Since the country's future economic growth will hinge more on the quality than on the quantity of its labor force, emphasis would be better placed on improving labor's productivity. This emphasis, in turn, will require not only an increased investment in educating and training current and future workers but also a major reorganization of Cuba's educational system." Id., at 78). It will suggest what the changes may mean for the future course of the development of Cuban state-Party ideology. It will examine some current criticisms of the current state of Cuban education. It will also discuss the ways that the fundamental assumptions underlying the Lineamientos regarding economic activity may drive the reorganization and provision of education, sport and culture in the coming years and their consequences for the development of Cuban socialism.
1 From Raúl Castro’s Closing address to the VIth Party Congress, April 2011. (Raúl Castro Ruz April 19, 2011)
2 W. Richard and Mary Eshelman Faculty Scholar & Professor of Law; Professor of International Affairs, Pennsylvania State University, 239 Lewis Katz Building, University Park, PA 16802. The author may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. My thanks to my research assistant Bret Stancil (Penn State ’13) for his excellent work on this paper.
3 Translation: ["I believe that the most worthy, yet productive to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Victory over the mercenary invasion at Playa Girón, a day like today, April 19, 1961, is precisely to have convened a great Party Congress, a meeting that serves as the culmination of more than five ends after more than five months from the start of discussions on the Guidelines, a process of profound democratic and transparent nature, in which the people, under the leadership of the Party, indisputably played a role".
4 Translation: “we have no illusions that the Lineamientos and its associated measures, by themselves, are the solutions to all of our problems. To succeed in those strategic endeavors as well as in others facing us, we must immediately concentrate our efforts on implementing the agreements approved by this Congress under a common denominator of conduct: ORDER, DISCIPLINE and URGENCY”.
5 The Guidelines provide that the Commission is to work in four general directions: “1. Organizar, orientar y controlar el proceso de implementación de los Lineamientos. 2. Organizar y controlar la preparación de los cuadros y demás categorías de personal que dirigirá o ejecutará la referida implementación. 3. Orientar el proceso de control que cada organismo o entidad debe ejercer sobre las medidas que se vayan adoptando para implementar los Lineamientos y sus resultados. 4. Conducir la divulgación adecuada del proceso.” (Partido Comunista de Cuba April 18, 2011, Implementacíon de los Lineamientos)
6 “To the Communist Party of Cuba is entrusted the responsibility to control, encourage and require compliance with the Guidelines approved by the VI Congress of the PCC wherever it applies.” Id.
First, the Lineamientos themselves were developed in response to the recognition that the current economic model was both tied to the economic development needs of the State (as represented in the economic provisions of the Lineamientos themselves) and, like the current economioc model, unsustainable in its present form. This is not a matter of reallocating resources so much as it is a matter of having no resources to allocate. Nor is it merely a matter of reshaping the educational system, but the need to better tie it, not to the political ends of state building (state building (e.g. Alarcón 2011) but to the economic needs of the Cuban economy and Cuban economic development.
Second, it is not clear how effective the State will be in bending education to the needs of Cuban industry. Certainly such an objective has been an elusive goal of developed and developing states for over a century. With regard to the Lineamientos, it can be argued that although the VIth Party Congress is correct in that resources need to be directed towards the utilization of new technologies, with the partial opening of the market and Cuba’s hope for increased foreign investment and joint ventures, it may be difficult to predict future labor demands and, subsequently, upon which technologies to assign limited resources. Thus, there may be a tension between the need to move education to more effectively serve the training needs of the economy and the actual needs of that economy. That tension includes predictability of need, appropriate allocation of resources and lag time. The disastrous example in the United States of preparing a generation of poor people to serve as keypunch operators at a time when such occupations were on the verge of obsolescence should serve as a warning.
As a consequence, the Lineamientos open a window on Cuban education that is more honest and transparent than the conventional Western wisdom might have thought likely. First, it suggests the extent to which Cuban education might be understood to be sliding down from the level and standards set in earlier decades. That slide is both a function of economics but also of a cultural shift—teachers are no longer as well respected and their place within the social order has been significantly diminished. Like teachers in developed states, Cuban teachers find themselves less valued, and more worked, than other professions. As in the United States and Europe, then, the consequences are significant for the ability of a state to deliver consistent quality education. The Lineamientos, thus suggests that in this respect, Cuba may no longer be special, but is now facing the same problem as that encountered in some developed states. But this assessment should be understood in context: “from the very beginning of the revolution to the present one of the most often-mentioned educational problems in Cuba has been the lack of sufficient numbers of well trained teachers.” (Aguirre & Vichot 1996, 376).
Third, the Lineamientos suggest that the earlier expenditure on brick and mortar projects—large school buildings and other substantial infrastructure, now has become something of a drag on the ability of the state to deliver education efficiently. The focus on the reuse of property and the like serve as evidence of this problem. Obsolete and ill used facilities are expensive. And Cuba has little margin to support such expenses. The maintenance of aging and sometimes obsolete infrastructure drains revenues and, more importantly, diverts revenue from investment in new methods of teaching and new technologies, to mere maintenance. Again, as in the case of the social position of teachers, this suggests that Cuba may not be special anymore in terms of the quality of its educational infrastructure. But it does not mean that Cuba’s infrastructure is worse than any in developed states. Magellan Consulting, in the United States, for example, boasts of its usefulness in this regard—and by implication suggests the size of a problem substantial enough to support an on going business profitably. That, of course, is the irony of this analysis—school districts in U.S. major cities still may be in much worse shape today than those in Cuba.
Fourth, Cuba is now wrestling with the consequences of globalization and the technological revolution that made globalization possible. Those consequences are technological, financial and political. The technological consequences are obvious—both hardware and software requirements have proliferated and at an increasing pace. These technological advances and their naturalization within education cannot be ignored by those states that seek to maintain a reputation as vanguard elements of global education. But the increasing pace of technological change and its required use in education has also made education much more expensive—a corrugated tin roof , desks, paper, a chalk board and chalk are no longer sufficient; and Cuba has moved well beyond its initial efforts, a generation ago, to enhance literacy. Competition at the forefront of education system reputation requires substantial and continuing investment—with funds that Cuba is sorely lacking. The emphasis on alternative revenue sources and the utility of education as a revenue source reflects these needs. Lastly, and probably most well known is the political consequences—globalization and technological innovation in education makes it much harder for Cuban authorities to effectively police the sort of information available to students. That may have a political effect—especially when combined with the emphasis of a family role in education and the tilt from the privileging of political education to education more tightly aimed at serving the economic and market needs of the state. Thus, the focus on technology in the classroom suggests both recognition of the vital importance of technology in education today—especially technology that feeds into the needs of the employment sector. It also highlights the costs of technological investment in education. The Lineamientos implies that Cuba fears that it may be lagging in this respect. The consequences will not be that the population as a whole will suffer, but rather than educational inequalities may be exacerbated.
Fifth, the public focus on family involvement as a critical component of education, and education reform, cannot be exaggerated. As the Lineamientos make clear, the connection between education, sport and culture in the constitution of the socialist individual has been a principal objective of Cuban state policy. That requires control over the educational process without much interference. While it is true that the Lineamientos emphasis on the role of the family can be read as innocuous—that families must reinforce the socialist learning obtained in school—it also signals a willingness to privatize education in a way that may open the door to greater flexibility in the formation of Cuban citizens. Still, the discussion begins to look much like that now on going in the United States, especially if the Lineamientos serve as a mechanism for broadening the role of families in shaping education for their children, especially at the primary and pre-university levels. Yet the focus on the family is not meant to take only one direction. The sport and culture Lineamientos suggest the importance of the family, and the individual within families, as an object of cultural formation and the construction and maintenance of national identity (that itself can serve as a basis for the privatized educational obligations of parents toward their children).
Sixth, the Lineamientos reaffirms and continues the long tradition of centralized control of education and the traditional importance of the political education of Cuban citizens in socialism (Espinosa Chepe 2011a). Thus, while the Lineamientos suggest a change of emphasis, it does not purport to abandon the core values around which education policy has been built since 1959. Education retains its political objectives, but it is now rebalanced. The emphasis on the connection between economic need and educational methodologies does not signal the repudiation of the older objectives. While the Lineamientos suggests greater flexibility on income generation, asset use and the creation of innovative programs, there is nothing in the Lineamientos to suggest a fundamental change in the centralized organization of education. The question that remains unanswered by the Lineamientos is whether this refocusing can succeed. The critic Espinosa Chepe has suggested the adverse effects of this policy at the university level. Even friends of the current state apparatus, though, effectively acknowledge the fundamental point. The fundamental objective of the relevant Lineamientos is focused on the development of greater connection between university study and economic productivity. Where they differ from Espinosa Chepe is in the refusal of the Cuban Communist Party to concede that the political objectives of education are not critically important (Alarcón 2011).
There are other effects as well. Continued centralization can substantially affect, adversely, the state’s efforts to increase the standing of teachers, especially those below the university level. With little power to affect education policy, teachers will have a harder time increasing their social standing. Additionally, centralization can work against the other professed objectives of the Lineamientos (or at least substantially affect their breadth and character). The most important of these touches on the increased role of families in education. Though families will be charged with greater participation in education, they will continue to have little direct input into policy. That will create a tension that may make reform harder to implement as the central ministries retain control but monitoring becomes harder as implementation becomes more diffuse. (Aguirre & Vichot 1996, 381). But centralization produces other tensions within the Lineamientos as well—consider for example the tension between Lineamiento 150 tying education to the economic needs of the state, suggesting a focus on the use of education as a tool of economic development, and Lineamiento 153, substantially limiting state subsidy of worker retraining, effectively raising the costs of retraining and reducing its availability to those population sectors most likely to profit quickly from educational targeting.
(From Guide to Distance Learning Online Education)