Sunday, November 25, 2018

14-Introducing "Cuba's Caribbean Marxism: Essays on Ideology, Government, Society, and Economy in the Post Fidel Castro Era" ("From Ideology to Cuban Constitutional Reform")


I reported the publication of Cuba’s Caribbean Marxism: Essays on Ideology, Government, Society, and Economy in the Post Fidel Castro Era (Little Sir Press 2018; ISBN: 978-1-949943-00-9 (pbk); I SBN: 978-1-949943-01-6 (ebk)) (here). Cuba’s Caribbean Marxism is the first offering through Little Sir Press, a self-publishing collective that is a new project in broader knowledge dissemination of the Coalition for Peace & Ethics (more about that project here). Join us!’s Caribbean Marxism eBook may be accessed through these sites:    

Paperback ordering information to follow. Individual Chapters also may be ordered in pdf format.

I promised that over the course of future posts I would be introducing readers to the book. This post completes that overview with an introduction to Chapter 12 ("From Ideology to Cuban Constitutional Reform"),  which follows below.  Here for access to other posts in this series.  HERE for the video recording of the launch event for Cuba's Caribbean Marxism: Essays on Ideology, Government, Society, and Economy in the Post Fidel Castro Era, which took place 12 November 2018 at Penn State.

Chapter 12
From Ideology to Cuban Constitution Reform
      The 2018 version of the Cuban Constitution was adopted in 1976 (the first after the 1959 Revolution) and last amended in 2002 (effective the next year). It is a constitution drafted in the fashion of the old Soviet constitutions of the post-Stalin era. It asserts the primacy of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and its organs. It grounds the social state (Sozialstaadt), that is in the state’s role in the protection and enhancement of economic and societal well-being, in the concept of continuous class struggle and a principle of formal equality of wealth. It rejects the neutrality and value of markets and of the private sector; it views the state as the means to achieve and protect the objectives for which the Cuban revolution was undertaken. It viewed culture, society and economics as expressions of politics that required a firm guiding hand. But most importantly, perhaps, it provides a strong expression of the role of the state in the promotion and protection of the principles and premises of Caribbean Marxism as the fundamental political philosophy of the state. Within that framework, it acknowledges the delegation of political authority to the PCC. 
       As a consequence, the constitution in Caribbean Marxist acquires a character that is in some respects fundamentally different from that of the constitutions in Western liberal democracies.  The 1976 Cuban Constitution was not meant to serve as the core organizing principle of political power and the constitution of a state apparatus through which it could be legitimately asserted.  Instead, the Cuban Constitution serves as the expression of the guiding political ideology of the state manifested in the construction of the administrative mechanisms through which it can be exercised under the guidance of the institutions of political power—the PCC within the structures of Leninism. This structure was conformed in the Conceptualización and its focus on the role of the PCC as the apex institution of political authority.
Understood in its Leninist context, the role of constitutions becomes clearer. A Leninist state constitution is not a primary constitutive document. A Leninist state constitution does not organize and constrain power.  A Leninist state constitution is the means for memorializing the organization of a government.  The normative structures of that government, and the principles through which administrative power may be exercised and constrained, may be expressed in a Leninist state constitution.   This suggests that in Leninist political organization, the fundamental separation of powers is not between an administrative, judicial and executive function within a government that serves as a holder of all political authority.  Rather Leninist separation of power distinguishes between political authority, which is delegated to the Leninist vanguard party, and administrative authority that is vested in the apparatus of government. The model for this expression of 21st century political Leninism is China (Backer 2012). 
The relationship of the state constitution to the political constitution of the vanguard party (and holder of legitimate political authority) is straightforward: the state constitution is the highest external expression of the political line of the vanguard party and read in line with the principles through which the vanguard retains power. “So, the Constitution is the Communist Party line!” (Backer and Wang 2014, 313). “It follows that through the principle of adherence to the mass line, the CCP is obligated to form a government for the people, which has been accomplished through the promulgation of a written constitution. The Chinese constitution therefore reflects the official Party Line. The CCP is bound by its own party line—a fundamental tenant of the CCP as the party in power” (Ibid., p. 278). It is in this sense that one might speak to fundamental principles of “socialist legality”, for example as declared in the Cuban Constitution itself (Republic of Cuba 1976, art. 10).
The development of constitutionalism in Cuba appears to suggest a transposition of these emerging Chinese Leninist principles into the discourse of Caribbean Marxism. But the difference lies in the context in which Leninism  is applied. In Cuba, the political Leninism of state constitutionalism is also fundamentally molded by the concept of constant and active resistance to outside enemies (“of heroic resistance against all kinds of aggression and the economic war engaged by the government of the mightiest imperialistic power that has ever existed.” Republic of Cuba 1976, art. 3). The Cuban state constitution has been created for the operationalization of principal and its expression as the policy of the PCC in its role as the holder of all legitimate political authority within the national territory.  In keeping with Leninist theory, that political authority was contingent.  It required a continued fidelity by the vanguard (and its cadres) to the fundamental principles of Marxism, and it required the implementation of that Marxism in a way that was compatible with national conditions. These principles were written into the state constitution itself:
The Communist Party of Cuba, Martian and of Marxist-Leninist, the organized vanguard of the Cuban nation, is the superior leading force of the society and the State, organizing and guiding the common efforts aimed at the highest goals of the construction of socialism and advancement toward the communist society (Republic of Cuba 1976, art. 5).
Democratic elements were derived from the collectivity principle at the core of Leninism--and the organization of the state and its people would reflect this through the activities of a large variety of mass organizations, from a national legislative authority (arts. 3, 69 et seq.). to other organized collectives (Ibid., arts. 6 (mass youth organizations); art. 3 (popular sovereignty); art. 7 (mass and social organizations)). That, at any rate, is the theory--the attainment of which has to a greater or lesser extent eluded perfect implementation. 
       As such, Caribbean Marxism is driven by ideology, which finds expression in the great ideological documents that organizes the principles and structures of the political project the obligation for the attainment of which is left to the PCC. That ideology is then applied to the construction of the state through its organizing documents--the constitution and related text. Thus, as Chapters 2-5 suggested, the documents of state follow from the development of the principles derived from the ideology on which society is organized. As those principles are changed, that is, as ideology developed in light of movement from one historical stage to another, then the organizing documents of state must also be modified to reflect these developments.
       Over the arc of a long trajectory from the development of the Guidelines for reform of 2011 (Lineamientos) of the 6th PCC Congress (Partido Comunista de Cuba 2011), to the 2016 articulation of a new Conceptualization for the organization of politics, economics, and society  (Conceptualización del Modelo Económico y Social Cubano de Desarrollo Socialista) and its related Economic Plan (Plan Nacional de Desarrollo Económico y Social hasta el 2030) of the 7th PCC Congress (Partido Comunista de Cuba 2016), the fundamental ideology of the Cuban state and Party underwent substantial enough change to warrant as well parallel changes in its government, and thus in its constitution. And, indeed, after the close of the 7th PCC Congress and the finalization of its theoretical documents that effectively provided the new political constitution for the state, it became necessary to also revise the state constitution to conform the provisions of the state organs to the political constitution of the nation. 
       It is on that basis, that first the PCC, and then the state organs representing popular opinion (as attenuated as that might be) through the National Assembly of Popular Power, determined that constitutional reform was necessary to align the changes to governing ideology to the articulation of administrative authority. On July 14, 2018, Cuban Communist Party (PCC) authorities announced substantial changes to its 1976 State Constitution (“Anteproyecto de Constitución” 13 July 2018). The changes represent an effort by the PCC apparatus to build the changes it had instituted since 2011 into the formal structures of the governmental apparatus of the state (Backer July 15, 2018). The reforms were reviewed during  Cuba's 7th Plenary Session of the PCC Central Committee (“Cuba: Proposal of the Constitutional Reform Under Review” July 4, 2018).
The constitutional revisions were overseen by a Commission chaired by Raúl Castro Ruz, which also included Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, José Ramón Machado Ventura. Most Western coverage has treated these changes as if they mattered, in the sense of producing innovation in the political economy of Cuba,  “The panel pointed out the political significance of the ongoing review process, as well as the importance of the work undertaken by the 33 members of the commission. He also noted that the current constitution has been in force since 1976 and that proposed reforms are intended to respond to historical circumstances that have changed over time, according to Prensa Latina.” (Ibid.).  The Draft Constitution was then widely circulated to the masses for consultation (“Central Committee plenum analyzes first draft of proposed constitutional reform” July 4, 2018).  
       Those consultations, in turn, followed the model of the consultations that produced the final version of the Lineamientos--a substantial number of state organized meetings throughout the nation at which officials would listen to gathered groups and produce summaries of the discussion suggestions for change.  These would then be passed on to the state and Party organs that would consider those suggestions in producing a final version of the Constitution. That final version would then be submitted to a popular referendum for approval, expected to occur in 2019 (“Cuba constitution referendum date set for February 2019” August 10, 2018), after the publication of this book.
This Chapter considers this constitutional project.  It does so not for the purpose of a deep analysis of the likely final version of the constitutional document.  Instead, Cuban state constitutional revision is considered as the manifestation of the principles and objectives developed in the ideological documents. If constitution follows ideology, then to understand the constitutional process one must first understand its ideological foundation.

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