Thursday, April 7, 2016

Open letter to Raul Castro on the Communist Party Congress

After a hiatus of more than a year, during which I have been grieving the tragic death of my beloved comrade and partner of fourteen years, Maria Voukelatos, I feel ready to return to my translations and commentaries. Maria would have wished me to do so. In taking up this blog again I honour and cherish her memory, especially her commitment to Cuba's communist cause.

The Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) is scheduled to begin on April 16. The cluster of translations I hope to complete and share with readers in the coming days, beginning with the open letter to Raul Castro that follows, relate to the controversy surrounding the preparations for this congress.

In contrast to the six previous congresses, neither the vast majority of the PCC's 700,000 or so members, nor the wider Cuban society, have been consulted on the content of key programmatic and strategic documents that will presumably be approved by the one thousand Congress delegates that have been elected by the party's grassroots committees. What's more, only the delegates themselves, plus National Assembly deputies and some 3500 consultants, such as high-level PCC cadres and academic experts, have been given access to the draft documents, which have not been made public prior to the Congress.

Precedent aside, concerned PCC activists have pointed out that the PCC's Central Committee had foreshadowed both a discussion among the membership and a wider public consultation on the content of the Congress documents, leading to an expectation among the membership that such a debate would take place. As late as February 23, the PCC daily, Granma, noted (in a report on the Central Committee's Tenth Plenum) that pending preparatory tasks included municipal and provincial party assemblies and "a popular consultation" on the documents.

Francisco Rodríguez Cruz, also known as 'Paquito', is a PCC activist based in Havana. On his personal blog he describes himself as a disciple of Cuba's national hero Jose Martí, a communist, an atheist and gay. He is also an academic, a journalist for the Cuban trade union confederation's Trabajadores newspaper and a prominent gay rights activist. As a gay rights activist, he is said to be close to Mariela Castro, Raul Castro's daughter, who heads Cuba's National Centre for Sex Education—an institution that under Mariela's leadership has lent itself to the struggle against homophobia.

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Open letter to Raul Castro: Postpone the Seventh Party Congress till July

By Francisco Rodriguez Cruz

Spanish original

Translation: Marce Cameron

Havana, March 27, 2016
Year 58 of the Revolution

To: Compañero Raúl Castro Ruz,
First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party

It is now two months since I first raised my concern—mostly within the Party, as is my right as a Party activist—regarding the preparatory process for the Cuban Communist Party's Seventh Congress, which is scheduled for April 16-19.

In essence, my dissatisfaction is founded on the lack of discussion of the key Congress documents—which are still shrouded in secrecy—in both the grassroots Party committees and among the rest of the citizenry. I have publically expressed my view that this constitutes a backwards step in relation to previous political processes.

To date, not only have I not received a direct or persuasive response to my concern, but I have received, through various channels, opinions and support from other people, Party members and non-members alike, who share my dim view of this process.

Moreover, I am aware of at least one municipality in Havana where this topic was discussed seriously by the local Party secretaries. However, it is not my intention to speak on behalf of anyone, because I do not really know how widely my concerns are shared. In any case, the Party and you yourself have taught us that concerns of citizens, even those of only one person, can, should and must receive all the attention and analysis they deserve. With this in mind, not long ago I made a concrete proposal in my local Party committee: postpone the convening of the Seventh Party Congress till July 24-27.

This postponement of only three months would allow for the key Congress documents to be discussed by the Party membership as a whole, as well as with the rest of the citizenry, during April and May. This would still leave June to process the discussion, study it, improve the documents and incorporate proposals.

It is a strategic advantage that the documents are already known to the one thousand Congress delegates and to the National Assembly deputies, as well as to hundreds of Party leaders in their various intermediate-level leadership bodies. Those who have seen the documents could prepare and lead this grassroots analysis, and do so quickly and in depth.

There is no doubt a debate such as this, broad and participatory, would allow for the refinement of such programmatic documents and would confer on the Congress, and its decisions, even greater legitimacy on the basis of a wider social consensus.

I understand that this could complicate things in terms of practicalities, but you yourself have often insisted that we must proceed 'without haste, but without pause'. It is true that I do not have all of the information that the leadership of the Revolution has at its disposal; yet I see no reason to rush so decisive a political process for the future of our country if its preparation has not yet reached maturity.

Finally, I ask you and the Party leadership to forgive me if I have gone about this in the wrong way by making public this suggestion. If the Party considers this an inexcusable breach of discipline, then I am willing to shoulder responsibility for it.

My modest intention here is to try to convey this concern to the Party leadership without intermediaries, and to perhaps contribute to sparking a debate on this question among the rest of the Party activists and in Cuban society as a whole, when so little time remains—less than a month—before the date initially set for the Congress.

In doing all I can to convey this serious concern to you, I am also keeping my word. I made this promise to a fellow Party activist, an experienced comrade with an impressive revolutionary biography. With heartfelt words and revolutionary fervour, he had been looking forward to a more grassroots-oriented Congress of his lifelong Party.


Francisco Rodríguez Cruz
Communist Party activist


  1. Welcome back, Marce. I've missed you. I'm sure that others have as well.

    Art Young, Canada


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