Sie sind auf Seite 1von 16

Latin American

Perspectives
http://lap.sagepub.com/

Updating Cuban Socialism: A Utopian Critique


Luis Surez Salazar
Latin American Perspectives 2014 41: 13 originally published online 14 May 2014
DOI: 10.1177/0094582X14534602
The online version of this article can be found at:
http://lap.sagepub.com/content/41/4/13

Published by:
http://www.sagepublications.com

On behalf of:
Latin American Perspectives, Inc.

Additional services and information for Latin American Perspectives can be found at:
Email Alerts: http://lap.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts
Subscriptions: http://lap.sagepub.com/subscriptions
Reprints: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.nav
Permissions: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav

>> Version of Record - Jun 24, 2014


OnlineFirst Version of Record - May 14, 2014
What is This?

Downloaded from lap.sagepub.com by cate preda on October 10, 2014

534602
research-article2014

LAPXXX10.1177/0094582X14534602Latin American PerspectivesSurez / Updating Cuban Socialism: A Utopian Critique

Updating Cuban Socialism


A Utopian Critique
by
Luis Surez Salazar
Translated by
Mariana Ortega Brea
A critical look at what is officially called the updating of the Cuban economic model
and the perfecting of the Cuban political system from the viewpoint of the utopias of the
Cuban Revolution calls attention to the importance of deepening participatory and socially
representative democracy, strengthening popular and grassroots control over state management, addressing some of the causes of the deterioration of moral and civic values, and
increasing the participation of the mass media in counteracting negative effects. This
should help prepare citizens, especially the generations that will lead the country from
2018 on, to deal critically and in a utopian fashion with the challenges posed by the Cuban
socialist transition.
Una mirada crtica a lo que se llama oficialmente la actualizacin del modelo econmico
cubano y el perfeccionamiento del sistema poltico cubano desde el punto de vista de
las utopas de la Revolucin Cubana llama la atencin sobre la importancia de profundizar
la democracia participativa y socialmente representativa, fortalecer al control popular y de
base sobre la gestin del estado, abordar algunas de las causas del deterioro de los valores
morales y cvicos, y aumentar a la participacin de los medios de comunicacin para contrarrestar los efectos negativos. Esto debera ayudar a preparar a los ciudadanos, especialmente las generaciones quienes liderarn al pas desde 2018 en adelante, para hacer frente
crticamente y de una manera utpica con los desafos planteados por la transicin
socialista cubana.
Keywords: Cuban socialism, Utopian critique, Participatory democracy, Moral values,
Mass media

[The distinguished Cuban scholar Luis Surez Salazar was the fourth Latin American Perspectives
fellow at the University of California, Riverside. His residency in May and June 2013 facilitated
a close look at the research materials in the university librarys Special Collections. During his
stay he presented an early draft of his paper to a university seminar and carried his ideas to the
LAP meeting at the Latin American Studies Association Congress in Washington, DC. His contribution to this issue is a product of that experience, which also included a presentation and
fruitful exchanges at a meeting of the LAP collective in Riverside. The collective is pleased to
begin this issues examination of Cuba in transition with his perceptive analysis of the current
conjuncture.]

LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES, Issue 197, Vol. 41 No. 4, July 2014, 1327
DOI: 10.1177/0094582X14534602
2014 Latin American Perspectives

Downloaded from lap.sagepub.com by cate preda on October 10, 2014

13

14 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

Nations should live in an atmosphere of self-criticism because it is healthy, but always


with one heart and one mind.
Jos Mart, 1891
The essence of utopia is a critique of present conditions and the hope for a better world. . . .
A critique of utopian reason cannot be anti-utopian. . . . Critique is always pointed toward
an open future, although rightly searching for a better world.
Franz J. Hinkelammert, 1993

Inspired by the epigraphs, this article is an initial critical-utopian approach


to the main guidelines of what is officially called the updating of the Cuban
economic model by the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party in mid-April
2011 and to the partys actions as an organized vanguard of the Cuban nation
and a superior leading force of society and the State1 in its First National
Conference on January 28 and 29, 2012. Unlike other critiques of these reforms,
whether liberal or Marxist, this one is based on the belief that it is essential
and, under certain internal and external conditions, possible to build a socialist model that is more self-reliant, effective, efficient, economically self-sustainable, environmentally sustainable, and democratic than the one utilized
since 1959, which has allowed the citizens of Cubas political generations to
participate in the revolutionary transformations that have taken place in the
countrya socialist, Third World, Latin American and Caribbean state located
only 90 miles from the worlds main imperial power.2 The achievement of
these purposesintimately linked to what, on other occasions, I have called
the utopias of the Cuban Revolution (Surez, 2000; 2009; 2010) depends
heavily on the way in which the Republic of Cuba is integrated economically
and politically into Latin America and the Caribbean and into the changes that
are taking place in the world system controlled by what Porto-Gonalves
(2013) has called the triad of world power: the United States, Japan, and the
European Union.
Space restrictions do not allow me to address the external projection of the
Cuban Revolution3 or the multifaceted international policy adopted by its current political/state leadership4 or to provide a comprehensive analysis of the
uneven results of the changes that, according to President of the Councils of
State and Ministers and First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party Ral
Castro (2011), have been undertaken to update the Cuban economic model
and refine its political system or the contradictory impacts of the two processes on socioeconomics, the level and quality of life, and ethical/political
values and, consequently, on citizens participation in national political life.
Only a few of these impactssuch as the reconcentration of income and the
decrease in the purchasing power of wages and other incomewill be briefly
mentioned, along with the significant increase in abstentionism in the most
recent elections for members of the National Assembly of Peoples Power,
which in my opinion requires critical analysis on the part of the leadership and
should be given priority.

Downloaded from lap.sagepub.com by cate preda on October 10, 2014

Surez / UPDATING CUBAN SOCIALISM: A UTOPIAN CRITIQUE 15

The Revolution Can Self-Destruct


In contrast to the situation in previous years, when external factors (the U.S.
embargo, the collapse of European real socialisms, and neoliberal globalization) were almost always emphasized, it is now fairly commonplace in official
Cuban discourse (while this concern has not disappeared) to acknowledge,
implicitly or explicitly, that as a result of mistakes made in the past, along with
problems that affected the society and its values, political systems, economy,
and external interactions, the Cuban socialist transition has accumulated a
series of endogenous weaknesses that may endanger its continuity in the more
or less immediate future. These weaknesses were such that Fidel Castro, in a
November 17, 2005, speech given on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of
his entry into the University of Havana, said that, among the many mistakes
we have all made, the most important . . . was to believe that . . . anyone knew
how to construct socialism. After describing instances of social indiscipline,
larceny, and corruption across various government, business, state, and union
structures, he added: This country can destroy itself; this Revolution can be
destroyed, and today it is not they [our enemies] who can destroy it. We ourselves . . . can destroy it, and it would be our fault.
In spite of the discussions prompted by that speech, which, as usual, were
carried out in the various leadership bodies and grassroots organizations of the
Cuban Communist Party and the Young Communists Union, the problems
affecting the functioning of these two political organizations did not lead to a
deep critical-utopian analysis.5 Among the reasons for this were the following:
(a) the increasing bureaucratization and growth of the main bodies of the central state administration, as well as inefficiency and lack of internal control over
many of the enterprises subordinated to them; (b) shortcomings in the functioning of the representative and executive bodies of Peoples Power, including its
National Assembly; (c) deficits in the work of most of the mass, youth, and
student organizations (the Workers Central of Cuba, the National Association
of Small Farmers, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the
Federation of Cuban Women, the Federation of University Students, the
Federation of Secondary Education Students, the Pioneers Union of Cuba, and
the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution), including failure to
fulfill their missions, reduction in their appeal, and the erosion of their autonomy vis--vis the Cuban Communist Party and the Young Communists Union;
(d) the multiple problems that undermined the role of the media, whether they
belonged to the state (as is the case for radio and television stations) or to the
popular grassroots organizations of political and civil society; (e) the strengthening of the economic, financial and commercial blockade and other aggression against Cuba under the two administrations of George W. Bush; and
( f ) the bulky international agenda of Fidel Castro across Latin America and the
Caribbean and the gradual deterioration of his health.
Toward the end of July 2006, Castro was forced to undergo successive surgeries that, on more than one occasion, endangered his life. As a result, and
pursuant to the constitution, Ral Castro, then first vice president of the Councils
of State and Ministers and second secretary of the Central Committee of the
Cuban Communist Party, temporarily assumed the presidency of the republic.

Downloaded from lap.sagepub.com by cate preda on October 10, 2014

16 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

In a speech nearly a year later, he called for a critical debate within socialism
of the various problems, structural and functional, objective and subjective,
that were affecting society, the economy, and the Cuban political system (R.
Castro, 2007).
Whatever the criticism of the way in which this debate was handled (e.g., that
the interventions of individual participants were not discussed and their opinions, whatever they were, were assembled in the minutes of the meeting and later
sent to the municipal party committees), the truth was that, in response to that and
other calls of the political-state leadership (Valds, 2007), the Cuban Communist
Party and the Young Communists Union carried out 215,687 meetings nationwide that involved more than 5 million citizens. There were 3,255,344 interventions with 1,301,203 proposals, of which 48.8 percent highlighted various internal
problems affecting the Cuban socialist transition (D. Gonzlez, 2007).
Given this diagnosis and the repeated popular support for the active and
multidimensional international policy deployed in previous years (e.g., efforts
to revitalize the Non-Aligned Movement and the broadening and deepening of
Cuban interactions with the various projects of political coordination, cooperation, and economic integration deployed across Latin America and the
Caribbean), on February 24, 2008, Ral Castro was elected president of the
Councils of State and Ministers by the National Assembly of Peoples Power,
whose members had been elected at the beginning of that month by the citizens
of all countrys municipalities.
In the speech he gave when he was sworn in, he reiterated his commitment
to undertaking the necessary structural and functional changes while prioritizing the satisfaction of the basic needs of the population, both material and
spiritual, based on strengthening the national economy and its productive
base, without which development would be impossible (R. Castro, 2008).
As a consequence, immediate actions were taken to correct the imbalances that
were affecting the macroeconomics of the country (Alonso and Vidal, 2013), 6
and some changes were made regarding the organization and management of
the countrys insufficient agricultural production, among them the granting in
usufruct to private producers and cooperatives of large tracts of state land that
for many years had been unused. One of the purposes of this was to reduce the
need to purchase costly food imports, which had a negative impact on the balance of payments.
In addition, some unreasonable bans were eliminated, allowing access to
facilities dedicated to foreign tourism and the sale of computers and mobile
phones, as well as the purchase and sale of used cars and privately owned
homes. At the same time, various agencies of the central state administration
were restructured or merged (e.g., the Council of State stopped controlling the
various institutions linked to the so-called Scientific Pole in western Havana,
and the Ministry of Foreign Investment and Collaboration merged with the
Ministry of Foreign Trade) and authorization for self-employment was
expanded to an unprecedented degree. This last measure was meant, among
other things, to cushion the effect on the then-low unemployment rate of the
elimination of redundant positions in state agencies and enterprises. According
to the initial estimate (not yet confirmed), about 1,500,000 workers were to be
relocated in sectors of the state economy with large workforce deficits

Downloaded from lap.sagepub.com by cate preda on October 10, 2014

Surez / UPDATING CUBAN SOCIALISM: A UTOPIAN CRITIQUE 17

(e.g., agriculture and construction) or incorporated into various forms of nonstate employment and economic management.
At the same time, it was announced that the Sixth Congress of the Cuban
Communist Party, which had been postponed again and again since the end of
2002, would take place in October 2009. This was to be preceded by the First
National Conference of that party. According to Ral Castro (2009), the two
events were meant to define, with the broadest popular participation, the
socialist society we want and can build in present and future Cuba, the economic
model that will govern the life of the nation for the benefit of our compatriots and
ensure the irreversibility of the countrys sociopolitical regime, the only guarantee of its true independence. These and other claims reflected the decision to
submit, once more, 7 to a theoretical and practical critique of the Cuban situation that I have called the utopia of building a native socialist model different
from the collapsed USSR and European models as well as from those of the
Peoples Republic of China, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, and the
Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
The Sixth Congress and the First National Conference
After various postponements and changes in the sequence, the specific
objectives, and the dates of the party event just mentioned, in November 2010
the Cuban population was convened to analyze the Economic and Social Policy
Guidelines Project, which, after incorporating the views of the citizenry, was
discussed and approved under another title at the Sixth Congress in April 2011.
According to Ral Castros (2011) report, which was approved by the 1,000
Congress delegates representing 800,000 party militants, between December
2010 and February 28, 2011, there had been more than 163,000 meetings of
popular grassroots organizations of political and civil society (including the
party and the Young Communists Union). Without taking into account that
some people participated in more than one meeting, about 8,913,838 persons
had attended discussions of that document, and there were more than 3 million
interventions. Pointing to the quality of this real and broad democratic exercise, which he described as a sort of popular referendum regarding the depth,
scope, and pace of the changes to be implemented in the country and the
importance given to them by the political-state leadership, Castro added that
68 percent of the 291 guidelines had been reformulated and 36 had been added.
From these amendments and additions arose the Guidelines of Economic and
Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution approved by the Congress.
Despite due criticism of its content and form (e.g., the lack of theoretical
clarification of some formulations and the absence of others linked to the internal and external economic and social policy that will be implemented in the
next few years), this broad referendum, in which the overwhelming majority
of the citizenry reaffirmed its support for socialism, was in itself a demonstration of the leaderships will to persevere in the utopia of building a popular,
comprehensive, participatory, and socially representative democracy radically
different from both the bourgeois liberal democracies and the political systems
that, in a different context, are currently operating in the above-mentioned
Asian states (Surez, 2013).
Downloaded from lap.sagepub.com by cate preda on October 10, 2014

18 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

This was confirmed by other agreements of the Congress. In addition to criticizing the counterproductive effects of old habits that have nothing to do with
the vanguard role of [said] organization in society, including the superficiality
and formalism with which political-ideological work develops and its involvement in various unrelated state and government tasks (R. Castro, 2011), it
approved the convocation of the partys First National Conference and passed
a resolution on the improvement of the Organs of Peoples Power, the electoral
system, and the administrative political division of the country (PCC, 2011b).
After an assessment of the experiments then under way in the new provinces
of Mayabeque and Artemisa, the partys Central Committee was charged with
transferring the suggestions and guidelines to the National Assembly of
Peoples Power. A number of these suggestions were intended to emphasize
the authority of the local assemblies of peoples power and overcome the difficulties, functional and organizational, in both the representative bodies [the
municipal and provincial assemblies] and the executive ones [the administrative councils] at the provincial and municipal levels.8 And, even though the
difficulties that affected the functioning of the representative bodies that operate at the national level (the National Assembly of Peoples Power) were not
mentioned,9 it was added that the entirety of a process of this nature demands
a variation in procedures, legal terms and adjustments to our electoral system
on the basis of the essential principles that underpin it and prove its democratic
and participatory character (PCC, 2011a).
Because the experiments that were being developed in the two new provinces
had not yet concluded, these problems were not addressed by the Central
Committee or by the Cuban Communist Partys National Conference. This, in my
opinion, indicated that the leadership, concentrating on the solution of the difficult objective and subjective problems that had delayed the updating of the economic model (e.g., the complexity of the planned changes and social and political
resistance), had not given them enough attention. In fact, the 100 Conferenceapproved goals for the party in the next five years focused on the need to overcome the various problems that had affected its inner life, its ideological and
political work, the so-called cadre policy, and relationships with the Young
Communists Union and the social and mass organizations (PCC, 2012).
Without denying the importance of finding the quickest possible solution
and the need for social, mass, youth, and student organizations to perform an
autonomous, in-depth critical analysis, the Conference only indicated the need
to encourage the real and effective participation of the population in decision
making and the implementation of projects that stimulate initiative and lead to
local development that improves the quality of life. It was considered important to consolidate the partys attention on the Organs of Peoples Power and
contribute to the process of improvement under way with a view to strengthening the institutionalization of the country (PCC, 2012).
The National Assembly Election Results
In my opinion, the need to undertake changes in the Organs of Peoples
Power and in the electoral system as quickly as possible was demonstrated by
the results of the general elections for municipal, provincial, and national
Downloaded from lap.sagepub.com by cate preda on October 10, 2014

Surez / UPDATING CUBAN SOCIALISM: A UTOPIAN CRITIQUE 19

Table 1

Election Results for the National Assembly


of Peoples Power, 20122013 and Earlier
February
4, 2013

20122013

20072008

20022003

19971998

19921993

Number

Potential votes
Votes cast
Valid votes
United votesa
Selective votesb
Abstentions
Blank ballots
Null ballots
Total abstentions, blank
and null ballots

8,688,455
7,877,906
7,418,522
6,031,215
1,387,307
790,549
364,576
94,808
1,249,933

90.9
85.6
69.6
16.0
9.1
4.2
1.1
14.4

96.89
92.27
83.87
8.40
3.11
3.61
1.00
7.73

97.63
93.87
85.75
8.12
2.36
2.93
0.84
6.13

98.35
93.41
88.22
5.19
1.65
3.30
1.63
6.58

99.73
93.26
88.15
4.58
0.27
3.03
3.97
7.27

Sources: Official data published in Granma and, for 2013, Granma (2013).
Note: Since all the percentages are calculated on the basis of potential votes, some modifications have been made in the
data released by the authorities, which were calculated on the basis of cast or of valid votes. The potential votes for the
elections of previous years were 8,495,917, 8,313,770, 8,064,205, and 7,872,806.
a.Favoring all of the candidates proposed by the Nominating Commission.
b.Favoring particular candidates on the list.

representatives of 20122013. Here I will examine the election of members of


the National Assembly of Peoples Power of February 3, 2013, compared with
the elections of a number of previous years (Table 1). In 20122013, 90.0 percent
of registered voters participated. Of these, 69.6 percent voted for the whole
ticket and 16 percent (compared with 8.4 percent in 20072008) voted only for
particular candidates. Thus, while 85 percent of the voters acknowledged the
democratic legitimacy of the system,10 the increase in voting for particular candidates could mean dissatisfaction with other candidates who were included
in the closed but not blocked ballots issued by the National Nominating
Commission (made up of representative of social and mass organizations) and
approved by members of the municipal assemblies of Peoples Power. 11
Additionally, 14.4 percent abstained, cast blank ballots, or filled their ballots
out in such a way that, according to the provisions of the Electoral Act, they
were annulled. This contrasts with the 7.73 percent recorded in 20072008. The
reasons for these increases and the increase in voting for particular candidates
require critical analysis that, to my knowledge, has not been undertaken by the
authorities and, in particular, by the top leadership of the Cuban Communist
Party, since these figures seem to indicate citizen discontent regarding the
updating of the economic model implemented between 2008 and late 2012
and/or with the operation of the electoral system and Peoples Power.
Some of the causes of this discontent were evident in the preliminary results
of the experiments in Artemisa and Mayabeque. According to information
released by Granma, The model implemented in these provinces is appropriate, rational, and inclusive and has the potential to achieve higher levels of
efficiency (Martnez and Puig, 2013). The BBC correspondent Fernando
Ravsberg (2013) reported that in Artemisa the number of bureaucrats had been

Downloaded from lap.sagepub.com by cate preda on October 10, 2014

20 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

reduced by half, the administrative budget had been significantly lowered,


dozens of government offices had been turned into housing, and all legal formalities were centralized in one building (Ravsberg, 2013). At the same time,
the provincial assembly of Peoples Power had turned its board into a true
provincial government with the power and budget to operate according to the
priorities and needs of the population. Ravsberg added: Such decentralization clashes with the rest of the provinces, where the local parliament has no
executive power and merely supports what agencies of the central government
and enterprises [national or provincial and belonging to the state] decide to do
in the territory. This observation could be applied to the assemblies and
administrative councils in most municipalities of the country. In the immediate
future we will need to consider which of these measures can be implemented
in the remaining 14 provinces and the special municipality of Isla de la Juventud.
The implementation of these measures in other provinces will entail a change
of mind-set on the part of the delegates of the provincial assemblies of Peoples
Power elected in early 2013. This will require, among other things, that the
leading political and state authorities undertake proactive action to overcome
the problems affecting the functioning of Peoples Power and the Cuban
Communist Party, at least on a provincial and municipal level, and leave
administrative functions in the hands of the local assemblies and boards. It will
also require the use of democratic and decentralized methods in the mechanisms for state planning that, in the course of the implementation of the economic model, are being reestablished and, in accordance with these, in the
reorganization of state enterprises, it be established that they are required to
pay taxes on their profits to the municipalities and provinces in which they are
located. This must also be valid for existing and future mixed enterprises. Only
in this way will municipal and provincial governments have the financial
resources necessary to operate in accordance with the priorities and needs of
their populations. It will also be necessary to create mechanisms that will allow
the authorities of provinces and municipalities that cannot guarantee fiscal
equilibrium and sufficient investment to make decisions with regard to funds
that they receive from the central budget of the state. Otherwise, unequal levels
of economic and social development among them will remain and deepen.
The Deterioration of Moral and Civic Values
Simultaneous decentralization of ownership and government and the
restructuring of the state (Garca, 2012), with a clear delineation of its duties
and those of the Cuban Communist Party, will allow a focus on one of the
most serious problems that affect the Cuban socialist transition: the deterioration of moral and civic values in various sectors of the population and various
structures of the national political-state apparatus. Drawing on all the available evidence (including that compiled by the comptroller generals office,
which in 2008 was subordinated to the National Assembly of Peoples Power),
Ral Castro acknowledged this at the end of the most recent plenary session
of the partys Central Committee and during the ordinary session of July 2013.
He denounced the indiscipline, lack of control, theft of state resources, and

Downloaded from lap.sagepub.com by cate preda on October 10, 2014

Surez / UPDATING CUBAN SOCIALISM: A UTOPIAN CRITIQUE 21

corruption that have been revealed in recent years in various national and
mixed companies, as well as several government agencies (R. Castro, 2013a).
Recalling Fidel Castros 2005 warning about the potential self-destruction of
the Revolution, he said that Cuban society demanded the establishment of a
permanent climate of order, discipline, and thoroughness as an essential
premise for updating the economic model and avoiding counterproductive
setbacks in the construction of what the leadership, without offering a clear
definition of it, has been calling a prosperous and sustainable socialism. He
considered this all the more important because a portion of society now sees
stealing from the state as normal:
Illegal construction in improper places has sprouted with relative impunity,
along with unauthorized occupation of dwellings, illicit marketing of goods
and services, failure to comply with workplace schedules, theft and illegal
slaughter of cattle, the capture of endangered marine species, the use of massive fishing nets, [unauthorized] logging in forests, including the magnificent
Botanical Garden of Havana, the hoarding of scarce products and their resale
at higher prices, participation in illegal games, price violations, the acceptance
of bribes and patronage, the harassment of tourists, and breaches of information security.

He added that the common denominator of all these phenomena has been
a lack of enforcement, the absence of a systematic approach to work, and lack
of respectprimarily on the part of state agenciesthat undermines their ability to demand that the population comply with existing regulations (R. Castro,
2013a).
Without denying the importance of this call to fight all of the negative tendencies in the Cuban political system and society, a utopian critique of these
must necessarily call attention to, among other things, the deterioration of the
education system, declining incomes, the social vulnerability of the residents
of urban areas, and the continuous decline since the 1990s of indices of human
development in most of the countrys provinces (Espina, 2008; Mndez, 2012).
According to Mndez, only one province in 2009, the City of Havana, was
ranked high, while five were ranked medium and the remaining eight
low. Except in 2007, low was the average ranking for the country as a
whole between 1995 and 2009.
Therefore, a utopian critique of the deterioration of moral and civic values
must also call attention to an unwanted accumulation of wealth in some parts
of Cuban society. The Gini coefficient (which measures income inequality) has
increased by 0.15 percent since 1990 (Rodrguez, 2013). The new updating
measures, which include a reduction in state subsidies involving food and
other basic necessities such as personal hygiene and household products, have
had a negative impact in this regard. Without overlooking the fact that, as the
Guidelines indicate, these universal subsidies should be replaced with compensation provided by the state to people and families in need, the fact remains
that these subsidies, along with regulated distribution, low food prices, and
the distribution of other basic necessities through the so-called supply book,
have served to make up for the reduced purchasing power of wages and other

Downloaded from lap.sagepub.com by cate preda on October 10, 2014

22 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

nonwage income such as pensions and social assistance funds and for the
negative impact of the high prices of items sold in Cuban-convertible-peso
shops and the increase in the proportion of family expenditures devoted to
food (approximately 75 percent of wages), along with the transport, education, and health services that the state offers free or at affordable prices. As
was recently pointed out by the Cuban psychologist Mara del Carmen Zabala
(2013), Because of income loss given the decline in the purchasing power of
wages, a significant number of Cuban families are close to poverty, or at least
vulnerable. . . . They are forced to deploy strategies of all kinds, and this has
implications ranging from the loss of values that is now being intensely discussed to disconnection from society as a whole.
If the current political/state leadership does not comprehensively address
the objective and subjective causes of the increased deterioration of moral and
civic values in Cuban society, it will be very difficult to eradicate them. This
will surely have a negative impact on the fulfillment of one of the main
Guidelines: to ensure the continuity and irreversibility of socialism, the economic development of the country, and the increase in the standard of living
of the population, combined with the necessary shaping of the ethical and
political values of our citizens (PCC, 2011a).
Conclusions
Obviously, the changes that are occurring in Cuba have encountered resistance, especially among those sectors that think they may lose their relative
positions in society (Alonso and Vidal, 2013), including important cadres of
the state, the government, and the party, attached to what the Sixth Congress
called old habits that have nothing to do with the vanguard role of [this]
organization in society. In theory, a decline in opposition should result in a
revitalization of the party and the state that, according to Ral Castro (2013b),
has been taking place in a gradual and orderly manner in recent years.
Without denying the strategic importance of this changing of the guard for
the generation that led the Revolution (I. Gonzlez, 2013), the decrease in the
average age of Cuban Communist Partys Central Committee members, leaders, cadres, and municipal, provincial, and national citizen representatives of
Peoples Power will not be enough to guarantee changes that will broaden and
deepen the functioning of the Cuban political system. This applies particularly
to those components that allow active participation by citizens and their immediate representatives (municipal assembly delegates) in decision making and
the evaluation of results and their impact on local populations, including the
actions taken in the coming months by the party and the state to address the
most complex problems of the economic updating (e.g., the elimination of the
dual currency and the establishment of new wage and price policies) in order
to perfect Peoples Power and confront the deterioration of moral and civic
values that Ral Castro has denounced.
If, as he pointed out, we do not stop and, as far as possible, reverse this damage (much of it already established in the social consciousness of various sectors of the population), it will be very difficult to build what I have called the

Downloaded from lap.sagepub.com by cate preda on October 10, 2014

Surez / UPDATING CUBAN SOCIALISM: A UTOPIAN CRITIQUE 23

utopia of economic, political, social, ethical, and cultural development that, in


addition to ensuring the countrys sovereignty and resolving deep regional
imbalances and the major ecological and environmental problems that affect
the Cuban archipelago, will transform the majority of its population, without
any discrimination, into protagonists and the main beneficiaries (Surez, 2013).
This will require a substantial increase in all of the popular-control mechanisms that exist in Cuban society and the political system; in particular those
exercised for the social and mass organizations that involve the majority of
workers, peasants, intellectuals, and youth and students.
Changes involving the state and nonstate media (including better and more
diverse information on the national reality and critical approaches to national
problems and some of the actions being taken to solve them) will have to take
place. These will involve both the media belonging to the Cuban Communist
Party and the Young Communists Union and grassroots publications such as
Trabajadores, issued by the Workers Central of Cuba. As was stated at the Ninth
Congress of the Union of Cuban Journalists in 2013, all of the media will have
to play their important social role without the external interference of various organs of the political system. The complex conditions generated by the
ending of the exclusive monopoly of the media and the consequent emergence of new social media (e.g., digital social networks), as well as the context
of an increasingly polyphonic society with a high political culture (Garcs,
2013), complicate the relationship between the traditional media, broadcasters, and the increasingly heterogeneous audiences involved in national issues
(Elizalde, 2013).
This diagnosis was endorsed by the current First Vice President of the
Councils of State and Ministers and member of the Politburo of the Cuban
Communist Party, Miguel Daz-Canel (2013), who, in his closing speech at the
Congress, having called on all the political and social stakeholders who will
participate in the implementation of the agreements to coordinate their actions,
commented,
We can have the best of all economies, but if we do not work on [the] motivations, aspirations, feelings [of the population] we will not build the prosperous
and sustainable society we want. The media play a fundamental role in that,
the way in which they present our truths, our reality. They need to be able to
express what we feel, what we need; they must be able to attract, captivate, and
engage.

All of the above and many other topics will need to be addressed to prepare
Cuban society and, in particular, its new generations to confront the internal
and external problems that affect them in a critical-utopian way. However
accurate our current criticism of the Cuban socialist transition, future problems
cannot be foreseen, nor can the changes that will be needed to solve them.
Even if all of the economic, social, political, ideological, and cultural actions
undertaken in the forthcoming years have optimal results, they will surely lead
to changes in the current Cuban social and class structurea result of the still
insufficiently analyzed economic policies identified in the Guidelines, especially with regard to the hiring of self-employed workers by other self-employed
workers, cooperatives, companies, or other forms of nonstate management. Of

Downloaded from lap.sagepub.com by cate preda on October 10, 2014

24 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

the 429,000 officially registered self-employed workers, 80,000 are employed


by other self-employed workers (Rodrguez, 2013). In the next three years, subcontracting is sure to increase exponentially given that, according to official
projections, 40 percent of jobs in 2016 will be outside the state system.
As Zabala (2013) has suggested, important sectors of the population (among
them but not exclusively women, blacks, and mestizos) do not have the income
(wage-based or not) or family wealth needed to initiate projects outside the
state sector and will be forced to seek well-paying state jobs, work two jobs, or
work for small or mid-level owners of means of production, cooperatives, or
other managers of the means of production outside the state. As some delegates to the partys First National Conference pointed out, this will create
unprecedented tension with regard to the interpretation and application of the
constitutional precepts that guarantee ownership of the means and instruments of personal or family work and establish that these cannot be used to
obtain income from the exploitation of others labor (Direccin de Legislacin
y Asesora del Ministerio de Justicia, 2004: 3).
To the inevitable and contradictory socioeconomic, political, axiological,
ideological, and cultural consequences of these and other events must be added
those of the demographic and generational changes that are under way, among
them the aging of the population and the gradual withdrawal of the historical
and guevarista generations from political life. At the very latest by 2018, the
representatives of the generation of the institutionalized revolution and the
generation of the Special Period will have to lead the nation. In doing so they
will have to take into account that, if current trends continue, Cuban society
will be increasingly affected by the structural crises (economic, financial, energetic, alimentary, environmental, ethical) affecting the capitalist world economy and the socio-environmental problems that have long been occurring in
the Cuban archipelagoincreasingly destructive and increasingly common
hurricanes, damaged infrastructure in coastal areas, rising sea levels, and the
consequent salinization of water sources and agricultural land.
They will also have to take into consideration that, even if official relations
between the two countries are normalized, there is no indication that the United
States and its main international allies will cease being hostile toward the
Cuban socialist transition; hence the importance of undertaking strategies for
achieving the economic and political integration of Cuba into Latin America
and the Caribbean and building a more impartial, multipolar, and democratic
international system of states. The development and defense of this new economic, political, and cultural order, future Cuban interaction with the emerging powers of the so-called BRICSA Group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and
South Africa), and projects of political coordination, cooperation, or economic
integration that are autonomous or independent of the powers that currently
control the world system and are expanding in South America will be essential
to counteract the power asymmetry that will always exist between Cuba and
the United States.
In these and other facets of the external projection of the Cuban socialist
transition, its leadership and grassroots organizations should keep in mind the
issues raised 122 years ago by Jos Mart (1891): Barricades of ideas are worth
more than barricades of stone:

Downloaded from lap.sagepub.com by cate preda on October 10, 2014

Surez / UPDATING CUBAN SOCIALISM: A UTOPIAN CRITIQUE 25

Newspapers, universities, and schools should encourage the study of the countrys pertinent components. To know them is sufficient, without mincing words;
for whoever brushes aside even a part of the truth, whether through intention or
oversight, is doomed to fail. . . . Knowing is what counts. To know ones country
and govern it with that knowledge is the only way to free it from tyranny. . . . Let
the world be grafted onto our republics, but the trunk must be our own. And let
the vanquished pedant hold his tongue, for there are no lands in which a man
may take greater pride than our long-suffering American republics.

Notes
1. This statement has appeared in the Cuban Constitution since 1976. It was implemented on
February 24 of that year after having been approved nine days before in a referendum involving
98 percent of citizens 16 years or older permanently resident in the country, including people
temporarily residing abroad. Of these, 97.6 percent voted in favor.
2. Demographic generations are usually divided into periods of 30 years or cycles of 1618
years. From this perspective, todays Cuba has only has three or four generations; but I believe
that we can speak of five political generations: the historical, which includes those who fought
against Batistas dictatorship; the guevarista, which entered political life in the 1960s; that of the
institutionalized revolution, which entered political life after the adoption of the 1976 Constitution;
that of the Special Period, which came after the collapse of the false European socialisms and in
the midst of the crises of the 1990s; and that of the battle of ideas, which entered political life
early in the twenty-first century.
3. As in earlier work, I use the term external projection rather than foreign policy to connote the elements of values and economic and domestic policies that have influenced and will
continue to influence the implementation of the strategic goals of the Cuban Revolution with the
various social and political, state and nonstate subjects operating in the international system. I
also do this to include in my analysis the activity of various popular organizations involved in
Cuban international policy and because foreign policy is a responsibility exclusive to the state.
4. I use the term political/state leadership because, throughout the history of the Cuban
Revolution, top leaders have often combined their political tasks with state and government
functions.
5. For a self-critical analysis of the problems affecting the Cuban Communist Party and the
Young Communists Union, see the report by Ral Castro (2011) to the Sixth Congress and the
working goals adopted by the partys First National Conference (PCC, 2012).
6. In more recent years the growth of the gross domestic product has been very unstable and
well below the development needs of the country. There has been a significant reduction in investment, as well as deficits in the current account of the balance of payments. There has also been an
increase in the foreign debt and a marked deterioration of the states ability to honor previously
incurred obligations. Likewise, there has been a decrease in the productivity of labor and an insufficiently recognized increase in inflation.
7. The Cuban socialist transition has undertaken various self-critical processes with broad
citizen participation, among them one preceding the First Congress of the Cuban Communist
Party in 1975 and another in the late 1980s. Headed by Fidel Castro, the latter was intended to
overcome what were called errors and negative tendencies in Cubas economy, society, and
political system. Because of the disappearance of the so-called socialist camp, this critical process
was not carried to its conclusion, but it was reflected in the convocation of the Fourth Congress of
the Cuban Communist Party in 1991. In addition to changes in Cubas judicial and political system, it led to what I have called the super-heterodox economic reforms of the 1990s. The battle
of ideas, launched at the beginning of the twenty-first century and named by Fidel Castro,
sought to remedy the design flaws and adverse effects of these reforms, together with the problems already observed in the functioning of the political system. Many of the actions undertaken
by the political-state leadership during the first half of that decade were counterproductive, partly
because, in my opinion, the critical process did not involve active citizen participation in the
identification of all the internal weaknesses of the Cuban socialist transition.
8. According to the constitution, the municipal and provincial assemblies of Peoples Power
(made up of citizen-elected delegates) are the main governing bodies in those areas. In practice,
Downloaded from lap.sagepub.com by cate preda on October 10, 2014

26 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

however, their powers have been diminished by delegations from the agencies of the central state
administration or the state-owned enterprises in the area. Overcoming such inappropriate forms
of operation and increasing the authority of municipal and provincial assemblies with regard to
all state and nonstate activities should be one of the goals for improvement of these bodies.
Another goal would be to subordinate the Administrative Councils to these assemblies so that
they do not usurp the responsibilities conferred on them by the constitution.
9. According to the constitution, the National Assembly of Peoples Power is the supreme
organ of state power. It represents and expresses the sovereign will of all the people. At the same
time, The State Council is the organ of the National Assembly of Peoples Power that represents
it between one session and the next, implements its decisions, and fulfills all the other functions
attributed by the Constitution.
10. According to the electoral dictionary of the Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos
(IIDH, 1989: 416), democratic legitimacy requires adherence to the rules of the game on the part
of the majority of voting citizens as well as those in power positions.
11. According to the Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos (IIDH, 1989: 470), a closed
but not blocked ballot allows voters to choose some or all of the candidates but not any other
person they favor.

References
Alonso, Jos Antonio and Pavel Vidal
2013 Quo vadis, Cuba? Espacio Laical, Suplemento Digital no. 234, July. http://catarata.org/
libro/mostrar/id/863 (accessed July 28, 2013).
Castro, Fidel
2005 Discurso pronunciado el 17 de noviembre en el 60 aniversario de su ingreso a la
Universidad de La Habana. http://www.granma.co.cu (accessed October 20, 2011).
Castro, Ral
2007 Discurso pronunciado el 26 de julio en el acto central con motivo del aniversario 54 del
asalto a los cuarteles Moncada y Carlos Manuel de Cspedes. http://www.granma.co
.cu. (accessed July 30, 2007).
2008 Discurso pronunciado el 24 de febrero en las conclusiones de la sesin constitutiva de la
VII Legislatura de la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular. http://www.granma.co.cu
(accessed March 1, 2011).
2009 Discurso pronunciado el 1ro de agosto en la clausura del Tercer Perodo Ordinario de
Sesiones de la VII Legislatura de la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular. http://www
.granma.co.cu (accessed November 5, 2012).
2011 Informe Central al VI Congreso del PCC, in Documentos del VI Congreso del PCC.
Havana: Cubadebate. http://www.cubadebate.cu (accessed May 25, 2012).
2013a Intervencin en la Primera Sesin Ordinaria de la VIII Legislatura de la Asamblea
Nacional del Poder Popular. http://www.granma.co.cu (accessed August 8, 2013).
2013b Discurso pronunciado en el acto central en conmemoracin del 60 Aniversario del
asalto a los cuarteles Moncada y Carlos Manuel de Cspedes. July 26. http://www.granma.
co.cu (accessed July 28, 2013).
Daz-Canel, Miguel
2013 Discurso pronunciado en la clausura del IX Congreso de la UPEC. July 14. http://www.
granma.co.cu (accessed August 18, 2013).
Direccin de Legislacin y Asesora del Ministerio de Justicia
2004 Constitucin de la Repblica de Cuba. Havana: Editora del Ministerio de Justicia.
Elizalde, Rosa Miriam
2013 El consenso de lo posible: diagnstico y proyeccin del sistema de comunicacin en
Cuba, una mirada desde las Asambleas de la UPEC. Paper presented at the Ninth Congress
of the Unin de Periodistas de Cuba, July 13.
Espina Prieto, Mayra
2008 Mirar a Cuba hoy: cuatro supuestos para la observacin y seis problemas-nudos. Temas,
no. 56, 132141.
Garcs, Ral

Downloaded from lap.sagepub.com by cate preda on October 10, 2014

Surez / UPDATING CUBAN SOCIALISM: A UTOPIAN CRITIQUE 27

2013 Siete tesis sobre la prensa cubana. Paper presented at the Ninth Congress of the Unin
de Periodistas de Cuba, July 13.
Garca Lorenzo, Tania
2012 Actualizacin y produccin cultural: algunas hiptesis. Temas, no. 72, 1119.
Gonzlez, Ivet
2013 Se consolida recambio generacional en gobierno cubano. Visiones de IPS, July 27.
Gonzlez Daz, Leonel
2007 Victoria de la vergenza: el pueblo demand ms revolucin y mejor socialismo. Kaos
en la Red. http://www.kaosenlared.net (accessed January 4, 2008).
Granma
2013 Final results of elections. February 8. http://www.juventudrebelde.cu (accessed March
18, 2013).
IIDH (Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos)
1989 Diccionario electoral. San Jos, Costa Rica: Centro Interamericano de Asesora y Promocin
Electoral.
Mart, Jos
1891 Our America. La Revista Ilustrada, January 1.
Martnez Hernndez, Leticia and Yama Puig Meneses
2013 Ral: continuamos avanzando y los resultados se notan. http://www.granma.co.cu
(accessed July 1, 2013).
Mndez, Elier
2012 ndice de desarrollo humano territorial, Chapter 4 in Pavel Vidal Alejandro and Omar
Everleny Prez Villanueva (eds.), Miradas a la economa cubana: El proceso de actualizacin.
Havana: Editorial Caminos.
PCC (Partido Comunista de Cuba)
2011a Lineamientos de la poltica econmica y social del Partido y la Revolucin. Havana: PCC.
2011b Resolucin sobre el perfeccionamiento de los rganos del Poder Popular, el sistema
electoral y la divisin poltico administrativa, in Documentos del VI Congreso del PCC. Havana:
PCC. http://www.cubadebate.cu (accessed May 25, 2012).
2012 Objetivos de trabajo del PCC aprobados en la Conferencia Nacional del PCC. Havana:
Cubadebate. http://www.cubadebate.cu (accessed May 25, 2012).
Porto Gonalves, Carlos Walter
2013 Presentacin, in Ral Zibechi, Brasil potencia: Entre la integracin regional y un nuevo
imperialismo. Lima: Programa Democracia y Transformacin Global y Frum Solidaridad Per.
Ravsberg, Fernando
2013 Permuto casa 1x1 para Artemisa. Cartas desde Cuba, April 18. http://www.bbc.co.uk
(accessed August 10, 2013).
Rodrguez, Jos Luis
2013 Intervencin en el panel de Jueves de Temas efectuado el 18 de julio del 2013, in Tania
Chappi Docurro, La pregunta de cada da. Catalejo, July 24. http://www.temas.cult.cu
(accessed August l6, 2013).
Surez Salazar, Luis
2000 El siglo XXI: Posibilidades y desafos para la Revolucin Cubana. Havana: Editorial de Ciencias
Sociales.
2009 Las utopas Nuestramericanas de la Revolucin Cubana: una aproximacin histrica, in
Beatriz Rajland and Mara Celia Cotarelo (eds.), La revolucin en el bicentenario: Reflexiones sobre
la emancipacin, clases y grupos subalternos. Buenos Aires: CLACSO.
2010 Las cuatro utopas fundacionales de la Revolucin Cubana. Por Cuba 8.
2013 La actualizacin del socialismo cubano: una mirada desde sus utopas. Lecture, Centro
Nacional de Investigaciones en Ciencias Sociales e Histricas de San Salvador, April 26.
Valds Menndez, Ramiro
2007 Seguir el ejemplo del Che, significa hoy mirar hacia delante. Granma, October 9.
Zabala, Mara del Carmen
2013 Intervencin en el panel de Jueves de Temas efectuado el 18 de julio, in Tania Chappi
Docurro, La pregunta de cada da. Catalejo, July 24. http://www.temas.cult.cu (accessed
August 6, 2013).

Downloaded from lap.sagepub.com by cate preda on October 10, 2014