Notes on the Revolution
December 23, 2019
On defending the Cuban Revolution
By Charles McKelvey
Let us begin today with a question. Are the ridiculous accusations of the enemies of the Cuban Revolution, that Cuban doctors in international missions are slaves of the Cuban state or are agents of the Cuban state, believed by people who have not had the opportunity for direct experience of Cuba or its medical missions? It seems to me that they are believed to some extent, because of a more fundamental false claim that has been widely disseminated in the world, namely, that Cuba is undemocratic, ruled by a communist party that does not permit freedom of speech or any other democratic rights. It seems to me intuitively obvious that any such authoritarian state indeed would be capable of imposing forced labor or sending agents disguised as doctors. It therefore seems to me that our defense of Cuba should seek to delegitimate the fundamental lie. It should seek to explain the Cuban system of popular democracy, as an integral part of what Fidel called “the battle of ideas.”
What do I mean by the Cuban system of popular democracy? I refer to an alternative political process that was developed during the 1960s and 1970s, which has three interrelated components, namely, popular power, mass organizations, and a vanguard party. First, popular power or people’s power. Every five years, Cuba holds elections for delegates to 169 municipal assemblies across the nation. The delegates are elected in more than twelve thousand voting districts of 1000 to 1500 voters, in which the voters cast a vote for one of two or three candidates, which have emerged from a series of neighborhood nomination assemblies in which names are put forward by citizens, and a show of hands among the neighbors measures the support for each proposed name. Once the candidates are determined through the nomination assemblies, one-page biographies are posted side by side in public places, in anticipation of the elections of the delegates to the municipal assemblies.
Once the 169 municipal assemblies are formed, they elect the 602 deputies of the National Assembly of People’s Power. The National Assembly of People’s Power is the highest authority in the nation. It is the legislative branch of the government, responsible for enacting legislation and interpreting the Constitution. It elects the highest members of the executive and judicial branches, including the President of the Republic, who is the head of state; and the Minister of Justice, who is the head of the judicial system.
Secondly, there are mass organizations of workers, farmers, students, women, and neighborhoods. They were organized in the early 1960s through the expansion and unification of previously existing organizations, or the creation of new ones. Membership in the mass organizations ranges from 85% to 99% of each particular sector of the people. The mass organizations have direct elections of leaders at the base, with indirect elections of higher leaders by elected delegates. The elected national leaders of the mass organizations are prominent figures in Cuban society who regularly participate in public discourse. In addition, the general secretariats of the mass organizations periodically issue declarations with respect to national and international events.
The mass organizations are integrated with the structures of popular power. Their representatives serve on candidacy commissions, which finalize the candidates that are put forth in the direct elections for the municipal assemblies, and in the indirect elections for the national assembly and the executive branch of the government.
The third component of Cuban popular democracy is the Communist Party of Cuba, which was formed in the 1960s as a vanguard political party. Its new members are selected by the Party for their high level of commitment to the revolutionary process. Party members comprise approximately 15% of the population. The Party does not have authority to enact legislation, to elect the executive and judicial branches, or to interpret the constitution. These functions are given by the Constitution to the National Assembly of People’s Power, which is elected by the delegates of the people, with the participation of representatives of mass organizations. The Constitution grants to the Communist Party of Cuba the authority to guide and educate the people, but it is the people’s assemblies that decide. In fulfilling its educational function, the Party is a cohesive force in Cuban society.
The structures of the Cuban system of people’s democracy eliminate the need for electoral political campaigns and campaign financing, with their various negative consequences. And they eliminate the phenomenon of electoral political party leaders manipulating the formulation of issues in ways that seek an electoral advantage, thus generating both confusion and division among the people. In contrast, the public discourse in a people’s democracy has a much greater probability of generating a consensual understanding and unified action in defense of the people and the nation.
It is evident that the structures of popular democracy are different from representative democracy, but they are far from authoritarian. By explaining the structures of Cuban popular democracy or people’s democracy, we expose the fundamental lie that Cuba has an authoritarian political system.
There is a second theme in which we who defend the Cuban Revolution have a tendency to display less than effective approaches to communication. When we criticize the blockade, we often say that it violates the human rights of the people of Cuba as well as the people of the United States. Our claim is, of course, true, but here again we should focus more on the fundamentals. We should recognize, as the enemies of the Cuban Revolution do, that Cuba is a threat to the neocolonial world-system, because the world-system requires subordination to the interests of the hegemonic powers, and Cuba insists, in theory and in practice, on its right to sovereignty. In this sense, although extreme, the nearly six-decade blockade is logical. Cuba demonstrates to the world that an alternative to the neocolonial world-system is possible, and that example cannot be allowed to stand.
What is our best response to the imperialist logic of the blockade? I submit that we need to explain the unreasonableness of the logic of imperialism. We need to explain that the world as we know it is no longer possible. The neocolonial world-system has been built of a foundation of conquest and colonial domination, and it constantly has expanded economically by conquering and colonizing new lands and people, but it now has run out of lands and peoples to conquer. Moreover, the world-economy has overreached its ecological limits, and at the same time, it has generated sustained rebellion and revolution from the neocolonized peoples. Thus, the neocolonial world-system has arrived to economic stagnation and to ecological and political unsustainability. In such a global situation, imperialism is no longer a viable foreign policy for the global powers. I submit that this would be a reasonable response to the logic of imperialism that undergirds the blockade.
Our argument ought to give priority to a central fact of the current global reality, namely, that an alternative road not imperialist is both necessary and possible, and that Cuba demonstrates the foundation to such a necessary road, which is a political system in which the delegates of the people have political power. Let us defend the Cuban Revolution not by talking of the Cuban exceptional demonstration of solidarity in international medical missions, but by explaining the Cuban political process of popular democracy. And let us protest the blockade not by observing that it violates the human rights of the peoples of the United States and Cuba, but by explaining that the time of imperialism has passed.
This is Charles McKelvey, reflecting on the unfolding global popular socialist revolution forged by our peoples in defense of humanity.
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