Sunday, June 12, 2011

Translation: Notes on socialist democracy 1

Generation R is an new bilingual Cuban blog launched by pro-Revolution Cuban university students. It's their answer to Generation Y, the blog of Yoani Sanchez, a Havana-based counterrevolutionary whose diatribes just happen to be translated almost instantaneously into over a dozen languages by her "fans" overseas. You can check out
the English version of Generation R here.

Dario Machado is a well-known
Cuban revolutionary intellectual and a member of the Cuban Communist Party. In this first instalment of a two-part translation of a commentary published on the pro-Revolution Cubadebate website, Machado takes up a key challenge of Cuba's socialist renewal: harnessing the enormous and largely untapped potential of Cuba's mass media to achieve a better informed and more participatory socialist democracy. 

The Sixth Congress: notes on socialist democracy Part 1

Cubadebate website, May 7, 2011

Translation: Marce Cameron

By Dario Machado Rodriguez

A few days ago the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba concluded. It left in its wake a growing cautious optimism among the great majority of the citizens who responded once more to the call of the Cuban communists, thus confirming not only their confidence in the role that this political organisation can play in the indispensable transformations in Cuban society in a changed and changing world, but also confirming the socialist impetus of Cuban society.

The popular participation in the analysis of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution was not an inertial response, not a formal participation. It was an expression of the most important thing that has changed in Cuba since the 1959 revolution: the culture of the people, the consciousness achieved by a society which comes to grips with problems, trusts in its own forces and understands that only by preserving unity can Cuba maintain the principal conquests achieved by the people.

But unity itself is only a premise, in the same way that however much the Guidelines are an expression of the critical thinking of Cuban society regarding the necessary changes, if these changes are not carried out then they remain just another document. A viable economic model is necessary. An efficient, unique, made-to-measure suit for our country, for its conditions and premises, for its necessities, aspirations, customs, political principles, history and culture.

The framework for the popular debate was also clearly understood by the people: this is nothing other than the beginning of a series of other transformations that will continue in the economic sphere but which will also touch on fundamental aspects of the political and juridical organisation of the country.
A long-awaited congress

The Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party has been perhaps the most hoped-for congress by the great majority of the population, accustomed as they are to their regularity and given the particular circumstances in which this one has taken place. Given its transcendental nature, the Sixth Congress is comparable in importance to the First Congress in 1975 and the Fourth in 1991.

When as in Cuba, due to particular historical and political circumstances there exists a single political party, this can only be and act as a democratic institution if it includes in its strategic vision and tactical leadership the whole people, the last line of defense in the struggle against opportunism of all kinds.

If it is the sole party and if the constitution enshrines its right to be the leading force in Cuban society, there will be cases in which people want to belong to it in order take advantage of its prestige and its constitutional mandate and not exactly to uphold its prestige with their own conduct and commitment.

The numerous occasions in which the party has carried out a popular consultation to renew and consolidate consensus have not all been the same. They have not had the same quality, nor the same importance or transcendence. Among the most outstanding were the debate on the draft [socialist] Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, the debate on the documents of the First Congress [in 1975], that which preceded the Fourth Congress [in 1991], the worker's parliaments of 1991 and that which has just concluded on the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution, which were approved by the 6th Congress with the massive and indisputable backing of a millions-strong popular participation.

It's worth recalling that the process of drafting of these Guidelines took into account the results of a very broad and enriching discussion of the text of President Raul Castro's speech of July 26, 2007 in which the need for structural changes to Cuban society was recognised.

Absence in the media

The virtues of the most recent preparatory debate, however, were dulled by how little the content of these debates was reflected in the country's media. They carried so little of this debate that what was reported only served to highlight its absence.

The publication of the Guidelines for the second stage of analysis by the people took information already mediated and summarised by those who drafted the document, but what was lost was the educational value, the clarifying function and the ability to provide balance through the timely reporting of the viewpoints of the people.

In the Main Report to the 6th Congress [delivered by Raul Castro] the party's position on information policy was reaffirmed, one of those documents that had been put to sleep for eternity in desk drawers. Recognition of the grave error committed in not taking advantage of the enormous potential of the Cuban communications media to enrich the subjectivity of the citizenry

through the open discussion of the problems is the first step towards rectifying these problems.

Obviously, this won't be easy. Among the powerful internal forces that must be confronted in
order to continue the revolutionary project is that of spurious interests and opportunism that gets in the way of the necessary transparency regarding to awareness of the most important things that are happening in society. The first secretary of the central committee of the party [Raul Castro], who had reiterated in the closing speech to the sixth ordinary period of sessions of the seventh legislature of the National Assembly of People's Power [in December 2010] that he would be a staunch advocate of putting an end to secrecy, expressed it in the following way in the Main Report: 

"The Cuban media in its various formats should play a decisive role in the pursuit of this goal with clarifications and objective, continuous and critical reports on the progress of the updating of the economic model so that with profound and shrewd articles and reports written in terms accessible to all, they can help build in our country a culture of awareness about these topics.

"In this area of work it is also necessary to definitively banish the habit of describing the national reality in pretentious high-flown language or with excessive formality. Instead, written materials and television and radio programs should be produced that catch the attention of the audience with their content and style while encouraging public debate. But this demands from our journalists that they increase their knowledge and become better professionals even if most of the time, despite the agreements adopted by the Party on information policy, they cannot access the information in a timely fashion nor contact the cadres and experts involved with the issues in question. The combination of these elements explains the rather common dissemination of boring, improvised or superficial reports.

"Our media has an important contribution to make to the promotion of the national culture and the revival of the civic values of our society."

What is certain is that the Cuban press is still dragging is feet when it comes to reflecting the real country and is not at the level of the advanced culture achieved by the people, in particular its political culture. Just because the press doesn't give adequate treatment to the country's problems doesn't mean that that they aren't discussed; they are discussed by the people in everyday conversations and often in spite of the imprecise and distorted information provided by the media.

An inseparable facet of this new process of rectification of the Cuban Revolution is the intention to achieve a journalistic and communications practice through the media that is a democratising element in the life of the country, by placing in the hands of the citizenry, in a straightforward way without sterile paternalism and distortions, the information to which they are fully entitled, awareness that will enrich their subjectivity and make their participation more efficient.

The party of all Cubans

The existence of a single party is not a condition of existence of the socialist transition, and neither is the existence of several. What is an indispensable condition is democracy and participation, in which the will of the people is carried out, in which the people are the political subject and what is done is done for the people.

The debate on the Guidelines confirmed an organisational, ideological and political principle of the party's work among all Cubans: if we have a single party then this is the party of its militants and of the other citizens, it is the party of all the people. If someone who is opposed to the ideology and the political principles of the party and the socialist revolution expresses their views with full freedom in the party's call to debate, the process could hardly be more democratic, because it offers space for all opinions, those that are revolutionary and socialist and which have been the majority in Cuba since 1959 and those that are not. In the Main Report to the 6th Congress, Raul Castro gave the example of 45 opinions freely expressed in the debates that advocated allowing the concentration of property ownership, in other words for private initiative to breach the socialist frontier.

It would be impossible to conceive of a society of solidarity and social justice in which the logic of its economic reproduction is that of unlimited individual accumulation of money and power. The defenders of capitalist ideology talk about the inevitable failure of socialism, precisely because it does not give free reign to individual enrichment through the labour of others, but their political culture enables the great majority in Cuba to understand with sufficient clarity the consequences of not placing limits on private property. Because of this these isolated and minority views did not prevail, but the overwhelming majority of viewpoints addressed the necessary and urgent structural transformation of the Cuban economy and society based on socialist principles.

But what is fundamental regarding the political work of the party and the need for a profound change in mentality is that expressed by Raul Castro: "...while there tended to be general understanding of and support for the content of the Guidelines, there was not unanimity and this was precisely what we needed if we really wanted a democratic and serious consultation with the people".

[Translation to be continued]

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