Cuba’s Communist Party held its 7th Party Congress in Havana April 16-19. In attendance were 993 delegates and 280 guests. The dates marked the 55 year anniversary of Fidel Castro’s declaration of the socialist nature of Cuba’s revolution and, within days, of Cuba’s military defeat of U. S. – sponsored invaders at the Bay of Pigs.
Presenting a 12,000 – word “Central Report” to open the Congress, President Raul Castro indicated that, “The development of the national economy, together with the struggle for peace and ideological resolve, constitute the main missions of the Party. The economy continues to be the key unresolved task and political-ideological work is a permanent issue intimately linked with the economic battle.”
Delegates took on the task of reviewing and revising hundreds of guidelines authorized by the 6th Congress in 2011 for improving the efficiency and productivity of Cuba’s economy. In his report, Castro discussed implementation of the guidelines and analyzed challenges to the survival of Cuba’s socialist revolution stemming from the U. S. led, crisis-ridden, and worldwide capitalist system.
He pointed to Party lapses in supervision, implementation, foresight, and problem recognition holding back Cuba’s economic and political reforms. Many young Communists, he claimed, are short on historical and theoretical awareness and are distracted by consumerist longings. He identified problems: wages and pensions were still too low, some of the new non-state businesses were evading taxes, domestic food production hadn’t increased enough to bring down food imports, and Cuba’s dual currency system remained and was impeding economic growth.
The Congress dedicated two days to discussion of documents relating to issues grouped under four headings. Doing so, delegates joined one of four “Commissions” formed to shape a “proposal” to be submitted for approval by the Congress. The areas for discussion were: (1) the “Project of Conceptualizing the Cuban Social and Economic Model of Socialist Development,” (2) the “National Plan of Social and Economic Development until 2030 …” (3) the “Results of Implementation of the Social and Economic Guidelines,” approved by the 6th Congress, and (4) a report on fulfillment of recommendations put forth by the first party conference in 2012 for improving party work.
In the past, the party’s rank and file and Cuba’s general population had discussed agenda items for upcoming party congresses beforehand. That didn’t happen this time and criticism from within the party and beyond circulated widely.
In justification, party officials claimed that the guidelines to be discussed at this congress had been formulated and approved at the earlier one. And President Castro emphasized that since then the first two proposals – the most provocative ones – had been discussed by thousands of party leaders, academic experts, and other specialists. And they had been revised repeatedly.
Crucially, Castro indicated that discussion on those two points among “members of the Party and Young Communist League, representatives of mass organizations and broad sectors of Cuban society” would be continuing after the 7th Congress had ended. The Central Committee sought authorization from the Congress for altering the guidelines later on based on future deliberations.
As the Congress closed, 274 guidelines remained for future consideration, down from 313 after the 6th Congress. That reduced number even reflected 50 new guidelines, some actually new and others the result of revisions and consolidation. In fact, only 21 percent of the guidelines approved at the 6th Congress have been fully implemented. Slow progress was attributed to delays in fixing administrative and legal regulations to accommodate innovations and to what Castro called “outdated mentalities.”
The third commission, which dealt with implementation of the guidelines and workings of the economy, learned that the Cuban economy over five years had grown at an average annual rate of 2.8 percent, which “doesn’t respond to the dynamic for development that the country needs,” opined Economic Minister Marino Murillo.
The fourth commission, focusing on changes in the work of the party, confronted a drop in party membership from 800,000 in 2011 to 671,344 members in 2015. With an eye toward the aging of current party leaders, speakers stressed recruitment and preparation of potential new leaders.
The delegates, voting secretly, chose 142 members for a new Central Committee – 55 of them being new – who in turn selected 17 members of the Political Bureau, including five new members. The average age of Central Committee members is now 54.5 years; 44.8 percent of them are women and 35.9 percent are African – descended. Henceforth, new Central Committee members must be under 60 years of age, and party leaders less than 70 years old. In a change requiring constitutional modification, government and party officers will be serving no more than two five – year terms.
In his report Castro called for overcoming racial barriers in selecting leaders and for “promotion of our combative females … to decision-making positions nationwide.” Women represent “66.8% of the best technically and professionally qualified workforce of the country” and are “generally, are more mature and better managers than men.”
Speaking briefly on the last day of the Congress, former President Fidel Castro first noted dire threats to human survival and then declared that, “ideas of the Cuban communists will remain as proof that on this planet, [people] working with fervor and dignity can produce the material and cultural wealth that humans need.”
Photo: Participants at the 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party. | Radio Rebelde