Saturday, November 10, 2018

7-Introducing "Cuba's Caribbean Marxism: Essays on Ideology, Government, Society, and Economy in the Post Fidel Castro Era" ("The Current State of Political Ideology")

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 continues with an introduction to Chapter 5 ("The Current State of Political Ideology"),  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.

The Current State of Political Ideology: Caribbean Marxism From Lineamintos to (Re)Conceptualization of the Political and Economic Model
The 7th Congress of the Partido Comunista Cubano (Cuban Communist Party (PCC)) was one of the most important gatherings of the Cuban Communist Party in a generation. It was held just weeks after the historic visit of United States President Obama to celebrate the normalization of relations between the Republics of the United States and Cuba (Córdoba 2016). It was hoped that the 7th PCC Congress would manifest the value that could be derived from U.S.-Cuba normalization (Backer Jan. 5, 2015). The expectation was that the 7th PCC Congress was to serve as a starting point rather than an ending point of discussion (Sánchez Serra 2016). In that process, the expectation was that at least the external relations portions of their respective social and political models might be reformed. 
The 7th PCC Cngress produced the virtually completed draft of two key documents that would serve as templates for state policy through 2030.  The first was profoundly ideological-- the Conceptualización del modelo económico y social Cubano de desarrollo socialista (Communist Party of Cuba 2016 (hereafter “Conceptualización” or “2016”)) [Conceptualization of the Cuban economic and social model of socialist development]). The second, intimately tied to the first, was economic and framed implementation of the political and social model--the Plan nacional de desarrollo económico y social hasta 2030: Propuesta de visión de la nación, ejes y sectores estratégicos (PNDES) (Communist Party of Cuba 2016 (hereafter “PNDES”)) [National plan for economic and social development up to 2030: Proposed vision of the nation, core principles and strategic sectors]). Underlying both was the renewed and refined Lineamientos de la Política Económica y Social del Partido y la Revolución para el período 2016-2021 (Communist Party of Cuba 2017 (hereafter Lineamientos 2017). These now were relegated to a secondary policy space--a descriptor of the ways in which the political and social model and its economic framework would be implemented through an objectives based set of guidelines.
The event was noteworthy worldwide, and especially within the family of Marxist-Leninist states. The official press of China described the 7th PCC Congress as a great success (Urrechaga 2016). More importantly, it celebrated that success in terms that profoundly resonate in China—reform and opening up that preserves the socialist path and the vanguard role of the ruling party. From this perspective, the great success of this Congress was ultimately capped by its transitional aspects. With echoes of Chinese wariness of cults of personality and entrenched leadership, the reports of the 7th PCC Congress focused on the ability of the vanguard Party to prepare for a succession of leadership—and survive. “This Seventh PCC Congress will be the last led by the historic generation,” Castro said at the closing ceremony of the four-day party congress, where delegates gave his brother, revolutionary leader and former President Fidel Castro a standing ovation” (Urrechaga 2016; also Gorman 2016).
Yet, the 7th PCC Congress changed what had appeared to be the trajectory of reform in the wake of the prior 6th PCC Congress. The promise of substantial reform towards a Markets Marxist model (Backer 2016) implicit in the actions of 6th PCC Congress was supposed to be realized in the 7th PCC Congress, especially in the context of limited political opening up, of planning for a succession, and of a more robust embrace of a distinct macro-economic model, more market oriented. The opening up to normalization of relations with the United States, starting in late 2015, and with it the further promise of more robust integration with globalized markets, suggested further the possibility of accelerated change, even if it also served to reaffirm the current political framework and its leadership of whatever emerged as the reformed architecture of PCC political economy (Whitefield 2016).
Instead, the 7th PCC Congress appeared to slow the pace of Chinese style “reform and opening up” (改革开放; ), or at least change the trajectory intimated by the Lineamientos in 2011 (Communist Party of Cuba 2011). The tone was set by the First Secretary in his Report to the 7th PCC Congress (Castro Ruz 2016).  He suggested that a slow and steady course, with little deviation, should be the guiding principle of the Congress (Castro Ruz 2016, p. 9). The object of that slow and steady pace was to be the attainment or the preservation (depending on factional views of the attainments of the Revolution already in place) of a prosperous and sustainable socialist society. This goal had as its end the transformation of society and the individuals who made it up. “Su finalidad estratégica es el desarrollo integral del ser humano –individual y colectivamente–, con elevados valores y principios éticos, siendo imprescindible consolidar progresivamente las bases de las nuevas relaciones sociales” (Communist Party of Cuba 2016a [Its strategic purpose is the integral development of the human being -individually and collectively-, with high values and ethical principles, it being essential to progressively consolidate the foundations of the new social relations]).
The slow, steady and deliberate course toward this ultimate objective was necessary to ensure that the movement toward reform would not undermine the foundations of the political and economic order whose premises were established with the 1959 Revolution.
Las decisiones en la economía no pueden, en ningún caso, significar una ruptura con los ideales de igualdad y justicia de la Revolución y mucho menos resquebrajar la unidad de la mayoría del pueblo en torno al Partido. Tampoco se permitirá que como consecuencia de esas medidas se genere inestabilidad e incertidumbre en la población cubana. Por eso insisto en que se requiere mu­cha sensibilidad e intencionalidad po­lítica para avanzar en la implementación de los Lineamientos. Es preciso asegurar más explicación al pueblo, más disci­plina y exigencia y un mayor y más cercano seguimiento al proceso de cambios. Hay que tener, como ya hemos dicho, los oídos y los pies bien puestos sobre la tierra. (Catro Ruz 2016a) [Decisions about the economy can not, in any case, mean a break with the ideals of equality and justice of the Revolution and much less rupture the unity of the majority of the people around the Party. Nor as a consequence of these measures, will instability and uncertainty be permitted to be generated in the Cuban population. That is why I insist that much sensitivity and political intentions are required to advance in the implementation of the Guidelines. It is necessary to ensure much by way of explanation to the people, greater discipline and exigency, and a greater and closer monitoring of the process of change. As we have already said, one have ears and feet well placed on the ground.]
“The methodological approach to reform outlined by Castro and highlighted during the debate. . . throws cold water on hopes by some observers that the party gathering would speed up the process of change that began during the sixth congress of 2011” (Whitefield 2016). For sympathetic observers, the sense of anticlimax that marked a congress most notable for its lack of either transparency or popular engagement also pointed to substantial rifts between the leadership and PCC rank and file (Cameron 2016; Armario and Rodriguez 2016).
In light of these themes constraining and guiding reform, the First Secretary was able to offer four items (Castro Ruz 2016).  The first was the Report to 7th PCC Congress describing and justifying the slow course of reform from the 6th Congress (Castro Ruz 2016). The second and third were what would turn out to be the most significant product of the 7th PCC Congress, a five-year plan together with  a discussion draft the governing framework for “sustainable and prosperous socialism” (Castro Ruz 2016, p. 3). The Conceptualización and PNDES, its economic framework, were eventually finalized and approved in 2017 by the PCC Central Committee and the National Assembly. Approval came after a more abbreviated and targeted national consultation that was meant to mimic, but not replicate, the broad well-managed popular consultation that preceded the finalization of the original Lineamientos in 2011(Cuban Communist Party 2011) before the 6th PCC Congress(“Raúl calls to continue advancing in the conceptualization of Cuba’s socio-economic model” 2017).
Lastly, the 7th PCC Congress considered an action plan for PCC engagement in these efforts that were memorialized in a document entitled “The Party’s Work to Achieve the Objectives Approved in the First National Conferenceand of the Directives of the First Secretary of the Central Committee” (Trabajo del partido en cumplimiento de los objetivos aprobados en la primera Conferencia Nacional y de las Directrices del Primer Secretario del Comité Central 2016) (Communist Party of Cuba April 19, 2016). The Action Plan vested the Central Committee with authority to carry out its terms.  More specifically, and from the perspective of this Chapter, more important, was its ratification (approved by the 7th PCC Congress as well of “los fundamentos teóricos expresados en los Estatutos, que consagran al Partido Comunista de Cuba, como fuerza dirigente superior de la sociedad y del Estado, fruto legítimo de la Re­volución y al propio tiempo su vanguardia organizada y quien garantiza, junto al pueblo, su continuidad histórica” (Ibid. [the theoretical foundations expressed in the Estatutos that enshrine the Cuban Communist Party as the superior leading force of society and the State, the legitimate fruit of the Revolution and at the same time its organized vanguard that guarantees, along with the people, the historical continuity of state and society.]).
For some, the approach to popular consultation that was employed for the 7th PCC Congress marked a step back from the openness and transparency of the 6th PCC Congress. The process, much more narrowly tailored, appeared to roll back what had been seen as a trajectory for more robust consultation and greater intra-Party democracy that had marked the process of adoption of the Lineamientos in 2011(discussed at Chapter 4, above). Most importantly, the 7th PCC Congress disappointed because it failed to deliver on what had been hinted at during the course of the 6th PCC Congress--the project of reforming Caribbean Marxism in light of the realities of the “new era” in which Cuba and Cuban society now found itself. That reconceptualization of the political and economic model would have required substantial modification of the key principles of Caribbean Marxism, enshrined in doctrine after the 4th PCC Congress (Cuban Communist Party 1991; Anduiza Perea 1992). That model was founded on the primacy of central planning through Soviet bureaucratic mechanisms substituting and a rejection of markets-based regulation of economic activity. It was also based on a core premise that private economic activity could be a complement to the centrally planned state economy whose contingent character would be a function of temporary historical necessity.
This Chapter considers the construction of the economic and social model built into the Conceptualización In that context it examines the rejection by the 7th PCC Congress of those trajectories for reform that might have been read into the work of the 6th PCC Congress and the Lineamientos (Communist Party of Cuba 2011). PNDES will be considered in more detail in Chapter 6, which follows. The process aspects of the 7th PCC Congress is considered first. A close examination suggests the structural elements of the limits of reform in Cuba. These limits are structural as well as ideological. Structural limits are exacerbated by an entrenched nomenklatura that is fearful that ideological change will subvert the authority of the PCC and its political framework. Ideological limits are suggested by a political timidity that has been built into the operating culture of the PCC. The Chapter then considers the substantive consequences of the reform trajectory of the 7th PCC Congress. To that end it attempts a close reading of the major ideological product of the 7th Congress, its Conceptualización (2016) which is intended to complement the Guidelines (Lineamientos) of the 6th PCC Congress, and provide the theoretical foundation for its further implementation. As adopted, the Conceptualización serves to answer the question: what sort of theoretical model will guide the development of Socialism in Cuba (“Raúl calls to continue advancing in the conceptualization of Cuba’s socio-economic model” 2017)). The Conceptualización is of particular interest for its potential divergence from the construction of Chinese post-Soviet Socialist Market theory within the context of socialist modernization. The Chapter ends with a consideration of the deviations that the Conceptualization suggests from what had been the mainstream of Marxist development—Asian Markets Marxism (Backer 2016).
        Both the deviation of approach between the 6th and the 7th PCC Congresses, as well as the thrust of the Conceptualización, suggest a development of Marxist-Leninist theory and an approach to the application of that theory in the construction of the state and economy that may be peculiarly Cuban and perhaps Caribbean. This singular approach draws mainly from the methods and sensibilities of soviet style central planning ideologies. Reform inevitably draws Cuba closer to other developing strains of Marxism, especially those which have embedded markets mechanisms within their ideologies. Both are embedded within a system that came late to Leninism as a political structure within a political context in which the political order was thought to be constantly under attack, a subject discussed in Chapter 3.  These national and historical circumstances may account for the uniqueness of the Caribbean variation of Marxism that Cuba represents.  At the same time, that unique development has consequences not merely for the trajectory of reform— but also its scope and character. The roots of this Caribbean variation, however, may also inhibit substantial development. PCC is suffering from a paralysis that may be more dangerous to its long term authority than any machinations originating in its enemies and as, ironically enough, it moves its ideology along a trajectory within which limited political reform may be easier to fashion than economic reform.

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