Friday, April 8, 2016

The kind of Congress many of us wouldn't have wanted

This is the second of a cluster of translations on the controversy sparked by the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) leadership's approach to the Seventh PCC Congress, which gets underway on April 16. The first translation is here.

Esteban Morales Dominguez is a prominent and prestigious Cuban intellectual. He is an authority on US-Cuba relations and, especially, race relations in Cuba. He is also a PCC activist and one of Cuba's most outspoken intellectuals, very much in the tradition of the late Alfredo Guevara.

In June 2010, Morales' membership of the PCC was suspended—one step short of expulsion—for warning, in a candid commentary, that high-level corruption (and not US-sponsored 'dissident' grouplets) was the real counterrevolution in Cuba. In doing so, he was merely echoing and expanding on Raul Castro's own such warnings as president, and complying with his repeated appeals for Cuban communists to speak their minds. Morales appealed the suspension by his PCC municipal committee, and was eventually reinstated by the party's appeals commission after receiving numerous public gestures of solidarity.

Here, Morales expresses his disappointment at the way the Seventh PCC Congress is being organised. One senses his fury behind the acerbic bite.

The kind of Congress many of us wouldn't have wanted

By Esteban Morales

Spanish original

Translation: Marce Cameron

Havana, February 14, 2016

For months I've been asking for the Congress documents. Especially given the contribution we've all made towards the “Conceptualisation” [of Cuba's emerging socialist model]. Yet we've received no information at all. In the same way that they have informed us that the discussion process is moving forward, we grassroots party activists will have no information other than that published in Granma or, at the end of the day, what we are told about the Congress decisions.

I certainly regard it as unfortunate, to put it mildly, that we, the party base, will have to inform ourselves about the documents given the procedure adopted.

I ask myself: How democratic is our party? Have we advanced? What about everything that the highest leadership of the party has so often reiterated about changing the methods and styles of party work? If the work methods are going to change, then I assume it will be to advance—rather than to regress, as I believe is happening to us now.

Not long ago, I said in a meeting of my party branch that the way we were going, this would be a “Bottled Congress”, since only those present would drink from it. Now I'd say: “It'll be a Congress of Cadres” [i.e. of party officials rather than ordinary members].

What are the circumstances that have led us to hold a congress such as the one we're going to convene? Was it a question of principle to do it in April [i.e. exactly five years since the last Congress]? Could we not have waited a few more months so that the activist base as a whole would have an opportunity to read and express opinions on the documents, before they go to the Congress? I must say that I see no justification whatsoever for us committing the 'grave political error' of convening a Congress without the mass of grassroots activists—which I consider to be the real party—having access to the documents to be approved by the Congress in order to discuss them. Have we given up on being a Leninist party? I am yet to hear anyone tell me that.

I think the consequences of convening a congress in this way are not going to be wholly positive. The activist base is indignant, and rightly so. Undoubtedly because we've regressed in terms of party democracy, because we've disregarded the activist base, which struggles and grapples with our daily difficulties; which has given its all and even its blood for this country, this Revolution and our party.

It's not that we can't feel represented by the very large delegation that will be at this congress. I think they all deserve to be there. But the activist base also has the right to participate in the congress. Not as delegates, which would be absurd; but as voices which, from the remotest corner of the country, would have wished and still desire to see these documents, to read them, think about them and express opinions on them in order to enrich them. Not to receive something already decided on, which they cannot make any changes to. I don't believe there would be even one grassroots party activist who could feel pleased with how this congress will be [organised]. Maybe it's a subjective judgement on my part, but my broad and continuous contact with Cuban society—as an intellectual but also as a common citizen, going to the produce market, riding the bus and walking around Havana, talking with many people on the street, every day—tells me this.

An important mass of revolutionaries, people who are intelligent and capable, selfless, will participate in this congress. There will be much revolutionary spirit and much merit embodied in this congress. But outside it, there will also be hundreds who could have felt that the party has confidence in them, however humble they may be, to do what will be done at the congress, which is to decide the destiny of our country. That's something we all have the right to. Otherwise, what is the point of us being Party activists?

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