7th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba Concludes Successfully
R Arun Kumar
THE 7th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, held from April 16-19, 2016 concluded successfully with the adoption of various policy documents, reviewing the work done from the 6th Congress and election of the new leadership for the Party till the next Congress. Fidel Castro, the Commander-in-Chief of the Cuban Revolution, participated in the Congress and addressed the Congress, which was an inspiring moment for many of the delegates. 1,000 delegates and 280 invitees, representing the Party’s 6,70,000 Party members, affiliated with approximately 54,500 Party units attended the Congress.
COMPOSITION OF DELEGATES
The average age of the delegates was 48 years, with the eldest delegate José Ramón Fernández, a founder of the Party and revolutionary combatant, being 92 years of age and the youngest delegate Idaliena Díaz Casamayor, from Guantanamo, president of a People’s Council, and a deputy to the National Assembly is of 27 years. There are 55 delegates who are under the age of 35, which is 5.5 percent of the delegation, 14 delegates who are members of the various international solidarity missions Cuba organises in countries like Venezuela, Brazil, Haiti, Bolivia and Ecuador. Women constituted 43 percent of the delegates, while 36 percent are black or of mixed race. While a significant number of Party cadre, from the national, municipal and district levels, as well as leaders of grassroots organisations (Party units and committees) were elected as delegates, many of them are also workers, farmers, technicians, state and enterprise leaders, researchers, economists, professors and teachers, healthcare workers, combatants from the FAR and Minit, intellectuals, artists, jurists, journalists and even, some who work in the non-state sector of the economy.
The Congress re-elected Raul Castro as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, to lead both the Party and the country once again in these testing times. Along with him, a 17-member Polit Bureau and 142-member Central Committee was elected in the Congress. Announcing the election and introducing the new team, Raúl Castro reported that in the new Polit Bureau there are five new members, four women; five black or mixed race; five Council of State vice presidents; three Council of Ministers vice presidents; four ministers; two deputy ministers; four generals - including the First Secretary. In the Central Committee, 44.37 percent are women, and 35.92 percent are black or mixed race.
AGENDA OF THE
Earlier, the Congress started on April 16, a significant date in the history of the Party, as it was on this day, in 1961 that it took its birth. The immediate background was the historic victory of the Cuban revolutionary people against the US imperialist forces, which were repelled in less than 72 hours in the famous Bay of Pigs. So, the Congress naturally began saluting the 55th anniversary of the victory in Bay of Pigs and the formation of the Party.
Raul Castro, the First Secretary of the Party, introduced the agenda of the Congress, stating that four important documents were to be discussed in the four commissions that were formed for the purpose on the following issues: (i) the conceptualisation of Cuba’s socio-economic model; (ii) the development plan through 2030; (iii) a report on the implementation of the guidelines over the last five years and their updating for the period 2016-2020; and (iv) an analysis of Party objectives approved at the First National Party Conference.
Noting the importance of these documents, Raul Castro observed: “These are broad and complex documents which will mark the course of the Cuban revolutionary process, the Party and society, looking toward the future and the construction of a prosperous and sustainable socialism. All are closely linked and must not be considered finished works or analysed through a static or dogmatic lens. Following the discussions held during this event, just as we have done since the 6th Congress, they will be submitted to a periodic review process, maintaining a dynamic vision of their content”.
Subsequently, he presented the Central Report of the Party to the Congress, after that the delegates broke into commissions and conducted discussions in the four commissions on that afternoon and on the 17th. The plenary again met on the 18th to discuss reports from the commissions. That afternoon the proposed candidates for the Central Committee were introduced for analysis and vote. On the 19th, in the plenary session, the Central Committee elected was announced, along with Political Bureau members, as well as the First and Second Party Secretaries. And the closing session of the Congress was held.
Raul Castro introducing the Report and documents to the Congress stated that this time there was no major process of public debate and consultation on these documents, because “they are considered a continuation of the lines agreed upon five years ago, to update the country’s socio-economic model. Additionally, these documents reflect the collective work of many different professionals, and were analysed during two Central Committee Plenums, a process which led to the submission of 900 opinions and suggestions, included in the latest version”.
Stressing on the importance of this Congress, Raúl noted, “For the first time in a Congress we will present a document related to the conceptualisation of Cuba’s socio-economic model, which outlines the theoretical bases and essential characteristics of the social and economic model which we aspire to create through this updating process”. He explained to the Congress the intense discussion process that went into the preparation of this document: “Over the last five years, eight versions of the document have been successively analysed, first in the Political Bureau Commission for the implementation of the 6th Party Congress agreements, and later during Political Bureau and Central Committee plenary sessions, with the participation of the Council of Ministers”.
In order to enrich and perfect the document, after being reviewed by the Congress, he proposed that it “be submitted to a process of democratic discussions by members of the Party and Young Communist League, representatives of mass organisations and broad sectors of Cuban society” and hence requested the Congress to give authority to the Central Committee “to make any necessary modifications that may result from the consultation process, including relevant adjustments to guidelines that might be approved during this event, as well as final approval of the documents”.
In an extremely honest self-criticism placed before the Congress on the implementation of the guidelines approved by the 6th Congress, Raul Castro noted that 21 percent of the 313 guidelines were fully applied, 77 percent were in the implementation phase, while 2 percent have not yet been initiated. Identifying the problems that have cropped during the process of implementing the guidelines, he stated: “The main obstacle is the issue of out-dated mentalities, which give rise to an attitude of inertia or lack of confidence in the future. There also remain, as was to be expected, feelings of nostalgia for the less difficult times in the revolutionary process, when the Soviet Union and socialist camp existed. At the other extreme there have existed veiled ambitions to restore capitalism as a solution to our problems”.
Commenting on the transformation of the Cuban society that was underway, as was undertaken in the course of the implementation of the 6th Congress guidelines, he emphasised: “we will never allow so-called 'shock-therapies' to be applied, frequently used to the detriment of the poorest sectors of society. This premise, which corresponds to our principle that no one will be abandoned to their fate, greatly affects the speed of progress made in the process of updating the country’s economic model, while the impact of the global financial crisis and specifically the effects of the economic blockade against Cuba, are also undeniable. Neo-liberal policies which encourage the accelerated privatisation of state property and social services, such as health, education and social security, will never be applied under Cuba’s socialist model. Even with its current economic limitations, Cuba has preserved and perfected social services for the population in the spheres of education, health, culture, sports and social security. However, we must continue to stress the importance of progressively improving the quality of these services”.
And further: “Decisions made with regard to the Cuban economy will never, under any circumstance, mean a break with the ideals of equality and social justice of the Revolution and much less rupture the strong union between the majority of the people and the Party. Neither will we allow such measures to generate instability or uncertainty within the population”.
Urging the delegates to be open to the problems that might crop up during the course of the implementation of these guidelines and react to ensure their solution, Raul Castro stated; “We must remember that I, the Party, I, the government, at any level, I, a member of a mass organisation am involved in solving any problem that might affect our people...the worst that could happen, the worst thing a revolutionary or simple honest person, Communist or not, could do is fail to react to a problem. We do not have the right to remain unresponsive, especially given the times in which we are living and the changes we are introducing. This is an experience worth remembering, as it is one of hundreds, if not thousands of similar examples seen in the enormous task which we are undertaking to improve our country and our socialism”.
Raul Castro reiterated that in “socialist and sovereign Cuba, the ownership of the basic means of production by all the people is and will continue to be the main form of the national economy and the socio-economic system and therefore constitutes the basis of the actual power of workers”.
Turning his attention to the Cuba-US relations and commenting on the 'human rights' issue that the US always brings up as absent in Cuba and thus an impediment in removing the economic blockade, Raul Castro stated: “for us, equal pay for equal work, whether for a man or woman, is a human right. In other countries, including the United States, it is not, women earn less and thus dozens of supposed human rights can be cited. Free medical care in Cuba is a human right, in how many countries in the world is it? In many, this is not a human right, it is a business. In our country, education is free, in how many countries of the world is education free? It's a business, too. That is, we will discuss this issue of human rights with anyone and anywhere whatsoever, and we will recognise those who are in the right”.
In a sharp retort to the US accusations of one-party system in Cuba, Raul sarcastically stated: “What I enjoy most, when talking about political rights, is when they say to me that in Cuba there is only one party. And I answer them, “Yes, like you, you have a single party,” and the North Americans answer me: “No, we have two.” And as if I did not know, they tell me their names, “Democratic and Republican.” “Correct, that's right, it’s the same as if we were to have two parties in Cuba, Fidel would head one and I the other”. Surely Fidel would say: “I want to lead the Communist one,” I would say, “Well, I will lead the other, no matter the name”.
On a much serious note, he observed, “here there were three organisations: the July 26th Movement, the Popular Socialist Party and the March 13 Revolutionary Directorate. We could have formed three parties; but all agreed on the need to unite to form a single party, and to merge our respective newspapers, to be stronger; all their leaders had a great and decisive attitude in taking that step, why are we going to divide ourselves now? What it must be is a very democratic party, which is what we aspire to, and that any problem can be discussed in depth and completely freely...The existence of a single party presupposes stimulating the broadest and frankest exchange of views, both within the Party organisation and in its link to the grassroots with the workers and the population. The Party is obliged to permanently strengthen and perfect our democracy, for which it is essential to definitively overcome false unanimity, formalism and simulation. The Party has the duty to promote and guarantee the increasing participation of citizens in fundamental decisions of society. We have no fear of different opinions or disagreement, as only frank and honest discussion of differences between revolutionaries will lead to the best decisions”.
He added a word of caution, “Relations with the United States have historically represented a challenge for Cuba, given their permanent pretension of exercising domination over our nation, and the determination of Cubans to be free and independent, regardless of the dangers to be faced, or the price we would have to pay”.
Turning his attention to the Party organisation, Raul Castro proposed some important changes like “establishing 60 as the maximum age to join the Central Committee, and 70 to assume a leadership position in the Party, which in addition to the limit of two consecutive terms in political positions, will guarantee the systematic rejuvenation of the entire system of Party cadre, from the grassroots”.
The Central Report was unanimously approved by the delegates, after which the election to the Central Committee and leadership was held. Emilia Neuri, president of the leadership election commission, announced the results, after votes to elect a new Central Committee were counted. Neuri reported that a total of 991 delegates voted, and 100 percent of the ballots were valid. She explained that the candidates received more than 99.6 percent of the votes, and were therefore all elected to the Central Committee.
The Congress concluded on the 19th with an inspiring closing ceremony, the highlight of which is the presence and speech delivered by Fidel Castro.