By Jesús P. García Brigos
Cuba enters the twenty-first century with a system of social relations in a profound process of change. This presents a clear challenge to the socialist project.
It is absolutely necessary to improve governmental and administrative management, so as to both enlarge and streamline activities connected to state property, eliminating the current deficiencies, inadequacies, and lack of coordination. But this public sector also is decisive for organizing and channeling the participation of non-state forms of property in the system of social relations of production, and it must do this in a manner consistent with socialist interests.
We must improve the socialist character of the Cuban state in and from the economic sphere. This is linked, however, to a continued strengthening of the state in its capacity to direct social – and particularly economic – activity.1
This necessary improvement entails strengthening the role of individuals in their work collectives, spaces where they are united by both labor and social issues, and in their places of residence – all of this linked through the delegates, deputies, and mass organizations involved in Cuba’s government, People’s Power.
This is not – as some think – a matter of “adapting” our People’s Power to some new (and inadequately defined) economic model, based on “relieving” the state of responsibilities in a search for more efficient management. Nor is it based on narrow approaches that would separate the functions of the state from those of enterprises, or the functions of government from those of administration.
Rather, it is a matter of understanding and solidifying politics as a decisive element in the system of socialist property. More specifically, our system of People’s Power must act effectively as an element in shaping the new system of property that is being created. People’s Power is a pillar of the desired socioeconomic system, which must be built with creativity and with clear objectives. And above all, it must effectively involve all those committed to advancing our process of socialist transformation.
Now as never before, state functions are important with respect to enterprises2 and to all economic entities in our society. These functions must be defined and implemented on the basis of critical analysis of our experience up to now and clarity about the role of the state in a socialist transformation. It is most important to understand the dialectic between administration and state governance of the society, especially given the participation of non-state forms of property – including foreign capital – in economic activity, all of which affects the fabric of social relations beyond the strictly productive sphere.
With this objective in mind, we present the following proposals for essential avenues for improving the system of People’s Power, a process indispensable to advancing a prosperous and sustainable Cuban socialism.
Politics and People’s Power: proposals for improvement
Socialist transformation is an essentially political process, although the economy is a determinant factor in its success.
In today’s Cuba, changes are needed in the structure, functioning, and relations among the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), People’s Power, and the unions grouped in the Cuban Workers Federation (Central de Trabajadores de Cuba – CTC). The role of People’s Power is decisive, especially its system of representative bodies.
We must transform our conceptions and practices of the work of governing. This means transforming the activity of governing from one in which one part of society directs public life on behalf of the individuals who make it up, into a new process of social self-direction, or communist social self-government, based on a new type of popular participation in social activity.
Our current practice (which is not without basis in our revolutionary process) privileges a narrow conception of the activity of governing in relation to the requirements of our social program. The work of governing is still seen as the act of directing from a center, providing assistance to deal with problems mostly expressed as demands, and, therefore, administering resources managed by the state for its people. While it is true that, guided by clear principles of social justice, governing in this manner has brought great benefits to our society, those accomplishments should not blind us to deficiencies, especially those which can impede our advance in accordance with strategic objectives related to the essentially new nature of the society we are building.
In analyzing the work of governing since the beginning of the socialist transformation, it is important to see its expression in the work of the elected representatives to the bodies of state power. This consists in their systematic and permanent activity of hearing the demands and understanding the needs of the voters and the whole population that they represent, and of participating as members of the body in which they serve (the People’s Power Assemblies) so as to reconcile specific interests with more general ones expressed in and through other levels and bodies. Elected representatives take part in these policies from conception to implementation, monitoring their progress through their own work and in the larger body in which they participate. As a result of all the foregoing, elected representatives must be able to lead all the individuals they represent (the voters and other residents of a geographical area) to work toward satisfying their needs and the progress of the whole society.
But, in addition, the task of each of these representatives (our municipal and provincial Delegates and our national Deputies) is to govern in the sense already stated, to see to it that the governed will more and more “govern themselves.” The representative’s work must be less and less that of “delegation,” becoming instead an effective vehicle for every individual’s involvement in the process of governing, the necessary “bridge” between direct democracy and the indirect sort required by modern social structures but with a better content, oriented toward eliminating the separation between leaders and led as an expression of the hierarchical social division of labor, and, finally, moving away from the individual’s alienation with respect to the process of the reproduction of social life.
The sustained socialist advance of Cuban society in current conditions requires changes in politics in general, and in particular in the relation of People’s Power to the the Communist Party and the system of mass and social organizations, especially the unions and the CTC. These changes must recognize the centrality of People’s Power because of its broad reach as a space for participation and because of the obligatory nature of its decisions.
Within the system of People’s Power, the elected bodies must solidify their effective exercise of power over executive and administrative bodies. This is true from the National Assembly’s relationship with Council of State and Council of Ministers, to the Local Assemblies’ with local administrative bodies.
This will not be accomplished merely through structural changes, such as separating the presidents of the Local Assemblies from local administrative bodies. In fact, to make structural changes without all the necessary analysis could lead to the opposite of what we seek.
What do we have to change in the system of People’s Power?
The changes we need and the ways we carry them out cannot be determined ahead of time by specialists or politicians. They must result from a process of identification of needs and definition of policies and actions, increasingly carried out by those who will be the object of those actions. They must be the subjects of change, with close attention to the strategic objective.
In the current Cuban process of “updating the economic model,” which seeks to “loosen the knots that bind the forces of production,” the essential content of change as it relates to People’s Power must be to consolidate the role of the state as the organizer of “public power,” the coordinator of the diverse forms of property so as to sustainably reproduce an emancipatory, socialist social process.
This is the strategic direction. To take it, all of us who are interested in the socialist nature of our development must be involved in defining the policies and actions to be developed within this political system, at least in the following aspects.
Bodies of the system of People’s Power
We must improve the relationships among the different governmental bodies of the system and their various powers, responsibilities, and functions. This includes the “horizontal” ties between elected bodies and executive and administrative ones; the effective role of the assembly standing committees; and the relationships among the national, provincial and municipal levels, especially because of what they represent in terms of the necessary improvement in planning.
Some areas will require important changes. An example is the people’s councils (Consejos Populares), whose Law 91 includes inconsistencies, limits the responsibilities and powers of the presidents of the councils, and, in essence, not only fails to take advantage of the institution’s potential but diminishes opportunities for action in comparison with the original goals.
The People’s Councils
The people’s councils have unused potential, and as a result they have been weakened since they were extended to the entire country in 1992 and with the subsequent approval of Law 91, which codified their principles of organization and functioning.
The councils were created and developed as a step in the improvement of the Cuban state, and they have brought positive results. Nonetheless, outcomes have not always been successful, and the councils do not fully perform their intended role.3
What new contributions of the people’s councils should we try to develop and consolidate?
The councils offer the potential to broaden participation, and as such are a new element of communist social self-government. The fact that they include representatives of the mass organizations is important. This enables them to offer new ways to channel citizens’ interests in the work of government. And their inclusion of economic entities opens a space for economic activity in the administration of government – a space that the Municipal Assemblies lack.
The results so far reflect the partial development of this potential, but they are not what can and must be achieved. In fact, they may instead strangle the very potential that they have generated, as has occurred when there have been narrow interpretations of how mass organizations and economic entities should participate (respectively, only to mobilize the masses and only to contribute resources to the solution of local problems).
Improving the role of the people’s councils will:
- strengthen the authority of the delegate;
- improve oversight and supervision of all administrative entities, regardless of their level of subordination and of the form of property that they deal with;
- provide a means to involve all parts of the community in defining their needs, how to channel and meet them, and how the community will participate in the implementation of these processes; i.e., be a vehicle for social self-management;
- present an image of strong government at the level of the neighborhood or other geographical unit with common interests, which could contribute to organizing local forces to solve local problems, an indispensable component of social self-government of the nation as a whole.
Presence of labor in the system
Labor representation in the elective bodies and the people’s councils is essential to the socialist content of the Cuban state, to guarantee that individual producers/consumers making up workplace collectives as political subsystems will be full actors in the process of social production and reproduction.
This aspect is perhaps one of those requiring the greatest regulatory changes – not only in the internal operation of people’s power but in the conception, structure, organization, and implementation of activity in economic units (given the new diversity in forms of property) and also in the work of the CTC and its unions and the Community Part itself.
Provincial delegates and national deputies must develop practices that allow them to express the needs and interests of their respective workplace collectives in the assemblies where they serve. We should bear in mind that some of the delegates and deputies are elected on the basis of their work activity as managers or outstanding workers in state enterprises and cooperatives, and no doubt soon also in other sectors. Reciprocally, they must convey the discussions and analyses of the assemblies to those collectives. There are some positive experiences in this regard, but they must be improved and extended on the basis of understanding of what made them possible. This in turn will change mentalities among the representatives, in the workplaces, and in the assemblies themselves.
The greatest obstacles in this regard are found in the municipal assemblies. Because they are elected from residential districts, the citizen-interests to which they respond are more those of consumers than of producers.
What is needed is a Law that will specify concepts independently of the existing regulations for municipal and provincial assemblies. But Article 103 of the Constitution of the Republic offers enormous possibilities:
The Assemblies of People’s Power, constituted in the political-administrative demarcations into which the nation is subdivided, are the highest local bodies of state power and, as a result, are invested with the highest authority to exercise state functions in their respective demarcations; therefore, within the realm of their authority and in conformity with the law, they govern. Also, they contribute to the development of activities and fulfillment of the plans of entities in their areas that, in conformity with the law, are not subordinated to them.
Those potentials were substantially expanded with the creation of the people’s councils, but they have not used.
The municipalities are the “first line of defense” of the country’s economic life, and the relationship of the municipal assemblies to this economic life is one of the weakest aspects of our legal system. The reality is rendered more complex by the diversification of forms of property, each of which is necessarily endowed by social practice with rights and responsibilities. The state bodies are the arena in which this takes place.
Representation: elections and appointments
The election of representatives to the different levels of assemblies and the appointment of officials are basic to the functioning of People’s Power. Socialist transformation should be seen as bringing new meaning to the role of representative. Those elected must be able to implement a new concept of governing.
This new type of representation is a difficult process, because people are used to not being involved, but rather delegating someone to take care of their problems. But our representatives are not there to “represent” – so that someone else can govern in my name; that is a bourgeois liberal concept in which the sovereign (the people) delegates to the representative. It has nothing to do with the new essence of governing under socialism.
In a society carrying out a socialist transformation, the Sovereign, the people – always understood in concrete historical terms, as expressed by Fidel in “History Will Absolve Me” – is not an abstract entity. We cannot forget the class basis of our struggle, and although in organizing the functioning of the state we must think of the citizenry in all its diversity, the people that wield power must be understood as those committed to the socialist advancement of society.
Delegates of an electoral district are essential actors because it is with them and through them that citizens participate in governing their own lives. This must be explained so that it can be internalized and carried out effectively, systematically, not only during election campaigns. We need representatives who can implement this new approach to governing without losing sight of its class basis.
Without in any way sharing the bourgeois democratic notion that the democratic character of a system of government is determined exclusively by the presence of “competitive” elections, we believe that an important parameter of the degree of democracy in a system is the degree of popular participation in the selection of representatives, which is both an initial moment and an inseparable part of the bond that must be established between voters and the elected.
In that sense the degree of democracy in the Cuban representative system, since its beginnings, has been incomparably higher than any other as far as the district delegates go.
This has not, however, been true of the Provincial Delegates and the National Assembly Deputies. One step that has been taken to rectify this relative deficiency of representativeness was the change in the nomination and election process adopted in 1992 and first put into practice in the elections of February 24, 1993.4
To summarize, the innovations were that nominating committees for candidates to the municipal assemblies – which until then had nominated and elected the members of the provincial and national bodies, but thereafter only nominated them – ceased to be led by the Party and thereafter were led by a representative of the local CTC; the assembly could remove proposed candidates from the list, but could no longer add them; the place of any removed candidate would be taken by one from a list of alternates prepared by the committee; district delegates could total up to 50% of the provincial delegates and national deputies from each municipality, as opposed to having to constitute a majority as had been true before; and finally, the elections would take place in electoral districts through direct and secret vote by the population, not in the municipal assemblies as before. The 1993 elections had the peculiarity that voters were encouraged to cast a “united vote” as the political response of our people to the enemy’s campaigns to divide us. The “united vote” was a vote for the entire nominated slate, rather than for each candidate separately, although the latter option was not excluded.
The 1992-93 process had another very important novel ingredient, which was the organization of pre-election interchanges between groups of candidates and workplace employees, groups of neighbors, etc., with the goal of helping the population to learn more about their fellow citizens who had been nominated.
These changes have had mixed effects. There is still a need for truly thoroughgoing, positive changes to give the municipal assembly deeper knowledge of all the potential candidates during the nomination process – without losing sight of the need to deepen the process of consultation, which existing rules say should be as broad as possible, especially with the municipal delegates.
Nothing, for instance, would prevent the creation of a truly massive process of nominations from the grassroots level of the mass organizations: local trade unions, neighborhood Committees for Defense of the Revolution, University Student Federation brigades, the Federation of Secondary School Students, and Women’s Federation delegations. Also, once the candidates are approved, but before the elections, there could be interchanges with the population, as the law allows, which would help them get to know the candidates better.
This, together with the proper training and education of those representatives and steps to assure effective, systematic contact between the elected and the voters, would contribute to strengthening the representatives’ legitimacy and the effectiveness of the system.
Since “it takes a wise man to recognize he was wrong,” as an old proverb says, it is always the right time to correct things that have deviated from their intended essence. In this case, it is important to re-establish the opportunity for each delegate during the act of nomination to propose the changes s/he deems necessary. After these are submitted to the Assembly, those delegates that are approved would be added to the list of candidates as was done previously, and the candidate could even expound on this in a direct and public way to the Assembly. Further, the nomination process could take place without any limit on the number of candidates, or at least by setting a number of candidates that is a reasonable proportion higher than the number of seats to be occupied. And, very importantly, we should return to the stipulation that the majority of those nominated and of those finally elected must also be municipal delegates, so as to guarantee that these make up the majority of the members of the provincial and National Assemblies. This is not proposed as a formality rising out of populist conceptions, but rather based on an analysis of the importance, over the years, of participation by municipal delegates in debates and in general in the work of these assemblies.
It is equally important to stipulate that, if an elected provincial delegate or a deputy who has been chosen from the body of members of municipal delegates should for some reason cease to serve at the municipal level, his or her tenure at other levels should at least be submitted to the corresponding municipal assembly for evaluation (taking into account, of course, the necessary distinctions in cases where the cessation is due to the Recall process). This proposal stems from the terms of the municipal delegates not matching those of the provincial and National Assemblies, and from the great fluctuation evident at the former and most fundamental level, where, on average, only a little more than 60 percent of the municipal delegates complete their two-and-a-half-year terms.
In considering the relationship among the representatives in the three different levels of our state system, we must pay close attention first to conceptual precision, and then to its necessary expression in rules and regulations.5
Though it is essential to understand that the job of each body of state power is to make decisions concerning its own level in the system, it must also base its work on the richest possible interaction with the other levels, most specifically and essentially with municipal assemblies. A municipal delegate who is also a deputy or a provincial delegate should not act “blindly” there in the service of local voters’ opinions, because the work at those levels involves “thinking as a Province or Nation,” subordinating rather than reconciling the interests of the district’s citizens. This is also true in essence for those provincial delegates and deputies who are selected to represent socio-economic sectors.
On a related matter, the direct popular election of provincial delegates and Deputies introduced in 1993 — which, along with the pre-election interchange with voters, was formally a step toward qualitative broadening of popular participation — created some expectations that, because they have not been satisfied in practice, are having the opposite effect. The goal of direct election must be to functionally bring voters closer to their representatives. According the basic principles of our system, strongly internalized over the years of experience with municipal delegates, voters have the right to monitor those they elected and to be aware of their activities, which are periodically reported in accountability meetings.6
Such exercise of the essence of democratic centralism – the pillar of our system – has not been adequately implemented for the deputies and provincial delegates. Its implementation is not easy, for many reasons. One of these is that some deputies and delegates are elected from regions where they don’t live, as a result of the pursuit of a complicated synthesis of geographical and sectoral representation within a system based essentially on geography. There has been an attempt to solve this problem by organizing tours of the deputies and the provincial delegates through these regions, and “programming” their participation in accountability meetings, but this has been insufficient.
This limitation in the ties between deputies and provincial delegates and the areas to which they were elected has limited popular participation (a historically progressive phenomenon) in the current stage of development. This has had a negative effect on the evolution of the system. The measure that was taken led to effects opposite to what was intended, and the quality of the bond between those elected and the voters is still not satisfactory. The changes did not alter important elements of the matters that they were supposed to improve, nor did they take into account changes needed in the rest of the system. All this has limited progress toward the intended and necessary changes, and has even had a negative impact.
But the election process cannot be reduced only to the choice of delegates and deputies. Issues relating to the election of the presidents of the various levels of assemblies – or, in the case of the National Assembly, election of the Council of State – are also important.
In the first place, we must consider the role of the Party. The Party plays a decisive role in proposing who will occupy these positions. This was on display with full transparency in the elections of the Council of State, the Council’s President, and the Presidency of the National Assembly for the 2008 and 2013 terms; especially in the latter case, the analysis undertaken by the Political Bureau of the Party was publicly disseminated beforehand.
Both for municipal and provincial assemblies and for the National Assembly, the process of consulting delegates and deputies about the nomination of those officials needs to be still broader and deeper, including collective discussions as well as individual consultations.
In general, it is important to respect and solidify the principle of broadest possible consultation with members of the organizations making up the nominating committees and especially with the delegates or deputies, depending on the level of assembly involved. The essential role of these committees is to guarantee representativeness of the nomination lists in terms of their social composition, always in line with the goal of sustained progress toward socialist transformation, with legitimacy deriving from the effective functioning of our governing bodies guided by the will of the people.
Education and training of representatives: professionalism in the system
This is a most important aspect, indispensable to the genuinely popular nature of the system. It involves permanent education and training of the representatives elected to the various levels, and real prioritization of their social function, so as to guarantee popular professionalism. The representatives must have time to carry out their functions; that responsibility must be their main social activity, which does not mean they must be “professional” in the sense of leaving behind their normal jobs; rather, they must be systematically trained and educated in terms of theory, regulations, and the information they need to carry out their responsibilities.
This education about People’s Power must involve every citizen, in spheres ranging from schools to mass media to communication in general. Once representatives are elected, it must be a prioritized part of their work. They must analyze the concepts that they are applying and the way the system works in relation to its goals. They must also conduct permanent self-criticism, which is essential to continual improvement in policy-making – improvement required for the construction of socialism in our conditions, with our culture and the challenges we face. And, no less important, there must be effective communication practices, indispensable for efficient and effective interaction between voters and representatives. This is tightly linked to the vision of Popular Education developed by Paolo Freire.
In a more operational sense, training and education involves a systematic flow of information to the elected representatives, such that they are equipped for their role in socialist governing. This flow cannot just take place at the last minute before accountability meetings or assembly sessions. Representatives must be encouraged to educate themselves, beyond whatever information they receive through the procedures of the system. This depends largely on the delegates’ own sense of responsibility and commitment, which is a personal choice that goes beyond an automatic response of “doing one’s revolutionary duty.”
In general, preparation – that is, education and training – in the broadest sense of the term is one of the fundamental pillars of sustained and sustainable progress in the system of People’s Power. Indissolubly linked to that necessity is a corresponding one: that the work of elected representatives must receive sufficient recognition and social priority, demonstrated above all in giving them all the time they need for their work and all the facilities they require.
It should be legally stipulated that once our representatives are elected, this new responsibility should become their primary social function. They should not give up their other functions, but those others should be subordinated to the new one. We must remember that each representative in any of the assemblies has been elected by hundreds of people who have directly conferred this responsibility, which is not true of any other job in our society.
Accountability: an essential principle of the system
The processes of accountability and of recall in all parts of the system are expressions of effective exercise of sovereignty by the voters. Every six months, municipal delegates hold public meetings in which they explain their work in the municipal assemblies and discuss with the voters the subjects they bring up. Whatever issues cannot be resolved or clarified in the meetings, the delegates record so that they can be dealt with at the appropriate levels. This is a crucial aspect of the system. Such accountability processes are not limited to the municipal delegates; they are part of an essential practice for all structures and levels.
In general, there must be guaranteed, systematic interaction among municipal delegates, provincial delegates, National Assembly deputies, and the citizens who have chosen them, which must also take place outside the accountability meetings. Therefore, in addition to daily ties rooted in the areas of residence, the representatives have weekly office hours at set times and places known to the public. This is one of the bases of their effective work of socialist representation, their responsibility to the voters. It can be supplemented if necessary, at any moment, by the voters making use of the principle of recall, recognized and regulated by law.
The accountability meetings of the municipal delegate are special moments. They should provide an effective space for citizens to carry out governing. Nonetheless, accountability in the local districts needs to occupy a different place than it has up until now, so that the economic changes we are undertaking can follow the proper path, solidify a prosperous socialism, and make it truly sustainable.
The accountability meetings are the only space in which citizens can participate directly in the work of governing, individually through an important collective activity. This means much more than seeking solutions to the community’s immediate problems (although that is included), and much more than managing or administering society and the state. We are speaking of socialist state governance, which is inseparable from a concept of politics that goes far beyond the simple and narrow exercise of power.
Through their actions in these district meetings,7 citizens have the right and the duty to participate in the country’s governance. This involves tasks such as developing and monitoring socioeconomic plans at both the local and the national level. Citizens have the right and the duty to participate in and oversee as a State the entire functioning of Cuban society. They do so through their municipal delegates and the provincial delegates and deputies. The accountability meetings embody the effective soul of governing, which is not just a matter of “representation” understood as delegating power to the representatives.
Once again, the point is that the voters have the power. That does not detract from the representatives’ authority. Quite the opposite: They have the authority that springs from carrying out work that facilitates the power of those who elected them. This is no easy task, and it cannot be reduced to the simple transmission of demands and explanations, “responses to issues raised (planteamientos).” That is why the municipal delegate is so important, and we must think so carefully during the process of election, but – perhaps even more important – we must respect that authority in the daily functioning of the system, and not speak only of “supporting” the delegate.
The accountability meetings in the districts are inextricably linked to an ingredient very necessary for improvement, which requires a conceptual clarification of the “issues raised.” Identification of the people’s needs and attention to their demands is a primary, essential element in the work of governing. And itemizing the issues, established to collect the demands of the voters, must be seen as an indicator of those needs. This is true of the comments, questions, and proposals put forward in the accountability meetings as well as those collected in weekly office hours or the delegates’ daily-life interactions in the neighborhood – they must be essential inputs in the formulation of governing policies at all levels. Their importance goes beyond the percentages of problems that have been solved during a given time. They must go on the work agenda of the assemblies’ standing committees, for the municipal assemblies, and from there, the entire system all the way up the National Assembly.
Beyond the meetings in the districts, accountability needs to be an effective systemic practice at all levels and in all structures of the system. It needs to become an indispensable foundation of effective popular oversight by the voters over the system as whole. Further, it is prerequisite for effectively implementing the principle of recall. Although regulated by Law 89, “On Recall from Office of Those Elected to the Bodies of People’s Power,” this element should be more prominent in the functioning of the system.
The work of the assemblies’ standing committees
Each term, the assemblies reconstitute their standing committees alongside other, temporary ones they create to deal with particular topics. These committees are essential to the work of state bodies. They enable the daily life of the system: the process of making decisions, setting rules and regulations, and implementation and monitoring, including inspection visits and systematic forms of supervision. In this work, it is important to eliminate formalism based on reviewing documents, reports, and interviews with officials. Instead there should be effective and transparent interactions with the citizens on whose behalf the entities in question have been established. When this is taken seriously, there have been many positive outcomes.
It is important for the committees, especially the municipal ones, to link their work efficiently and effectively with the work of the people’s councils, especially with the committees that those bodies decide to create. Equally important is the makeup of these committees, which currently include only members of the respective Assemblies. Adding specialists in the activities in question as committee members would imbue the work with greater professionalism with which to confront the complexities of today’s social life.
Citizen culture: a key to improvement
In order to build a new culture of socialist citizenship in which citizens transform themselves, we need changes in how they are educated for relations with the state. It is essential to improve the following:
- in the school system, the content and ways of teaching about citizen rights and responsibilities and about the principles of the content, organization, and functioning of the state.
- the work of the mass media, its critical and proactive analyses, especially disseminating information about the sessions of the assemblies of People’s Power. Our press and our mass media in general are vital to the formation of attitudes and aptitudes needed for socialist governance. Journalists and scriptwriters of radio and television programs need as much interaction as possible with specialists in politics, law, and economics and with our representatives and officials in the many state bodies, so as to have both sufficient information and suitable conceptualization to play their role in shaping the political, civic, and moral standards essential to the new nature of our state system.
The best way to shape these standards is through the daily activity of our state system, whose outcomes will legitimate it as the necessary arena for the socialist self-government of our society.
Socialist development continues to be the only real option compatible with the very existence of the Cuban nation.
Successfully negotiating this “voyage into the unknown” depends on the economic-productive results that are achieved. Yet this is an essentially political process, to be determined by popular participation, and it requires a high and permanent level of democratic governability.8 Our major strength lies in the action of the socialized individual formed by more than fifty years of revolution – the new socialist individual, in process of transformation, able to understand that the basis of his or her actions must be the positive elements of our practice in the unprecedented process of communist construction emerging from underdevelopment.
This development depends on improvement of political activity, and in turn serves as the basis for progress toward socialist goals. Political activity will become the main axis of the entire process of socialist construction; most immediately, it is the glue that provides the basis for withstanding the challenges facing Cuban society.
Today, as never before, we must understand that we cannot afford to keep solving, over and over, problems that continue to spring from causes that we have not identified with the necessary rigor, or that, for one reason or another, we have not confronted in their full systemic complexity. The challenge we face has been clearly expressed by General Raúl Castro:
Either we rectify – because we no longer have time to keep on skirting around the precipice – or we will sink, and, as I said before, we will also be sinking the efforts made by entire generations from the times of el indio Hatuey, who came from the territory that is today the Dominican Republic and Haiti – the first internationalist in our country – to Fidel, who has brilliantly led us through these so complex situations since the triumph of the Revolution.9
We social scientists, as a part of the immense majority of the Cuban people, convinced of the human value of what we have conquered with our blood and sweat in more than fifty years of this latest chapter of our struggles for independence and dignity, will not fail to meet this challenge. We are thinking of our past history and the future still to be built; we are thinking of Cuba and of all humanity.
Translated by Dick Cluster
1. See Jesús García, Rafael Alhama, Roberto Lima, and Daniel Rafuls, Cuba: propiedad social y construcción socialista. Editorial Ciencias Sociales, Havana, 2012.
2. [Tr. note: “Empresa,” which in the capitalist Spanish-speaking world generally means “business” or “company,” has since the early 1960s in Cuba mostly meant a state-run producer of goods or provider of services, and has generally been translated as “enterprise.” I am sticking with that translation, though in the new era an empresa may also be mixta (joint venture of the state and a foreign corporation), particular (private proprietorship) or cooperativa (cooperative). – DC]
3. See Jesús P. Garcia Brigos, “People’s Power in the Organization of the Cuban Socialist State,” Socialism and Democracy Vol. 15, No. 1, Spring-Summer 2001, 113-136. The people’s councils are bodies introduced into the system of People’s Power as a result of analyses made between 1976 and 1986 in order to strengthen grassroots participation in governing. They are composed of the elected Delegates from a given area within a municipality, representatives of other important economic and social entities in the locality, and representatives of the main mass organizations.
4. See “IV Congreso del Partido Comunista de Cuba. Discursos y documentos,” Editora Política, Havana, 1992, 210-241.
5. The Cuban state system is structured according to the country’s three levels and its geographical political-administrative divisions: 168 municipalities plus the Isle of Youth as a Special Municipality, 15 provinces, and the national level. Each one has an elected assembly. There are executive bodies subordinated to each assembly, made up of members approved by the assemblies: under the National Assembly are the Council of State (which represents it between sessions) and the Council of Ministers (constitutionally defined as the government). In the provinces and municipalities the assemblies have their respective administrative councils to attend directly to social and economic activities within their boundaries, likewise made up of members approved by the assemblies. The National Assembly and the provincial ones are elected every five years, and the municipal ones every two and a half years; the Council of State is elected in each new term of the National Assembly, but the Council of Ministers and the administrative councils do not necessarily change after elections. All elected representatives can be recalled at any point in their terms, and they do not receive any remuneration or benefits for the responsibilities they carry out, unless they hold assembly offices.
6. [Ed. note: Accountability meetings are held twice a year by municipal delegates with their constituents, during which delegates report regarding their activities, and record complaints and suggestions from the constituents.]
7. Delegates to the Municipal Assemblies are elected by neighborhoods, one per election district.
8. See Jesús P. García Brigos, Gobernabilidad y Democracia. Los Órganos del Poder Popular en Cuba, Editorial Ciencias Sociales, Havana, 1998 (www.nodo50.org-cubasigloXXI/).
9. Speech delivered during the closing ceremony of the Sixth Session of the Seventh Legislature of the ANPP, English text at
http://en.cubadebate.cu/opinions/2010/12/18/speech-delivered-during-closing-ceremony-sixth-session-seventh-legislature/. Translation modified.