Cuba’s National Assembly adjusts socialist model to a changing world
President Raul Castro vowed to "change everything that must be changed" in order to update Cuban socialism. | Ladyrene Perez / Cubadebate via AP

Cuba is facing serious economic and financial problems, with the U.S. economic blockade the source of many of them. And like the people of all other nations, Cubans also confront a world overwhelmed by pervasive corporate greed, wars, populations in distress, and climate change. Such were the circumstances greeting Cuba’s National Assembly as it met May 31 and June 1 in an “extraordinary session.” On the agenda was discussion of several documents fundamental to the project of building a socialist society in difficult times.

Cuban President Raul Castro told delegates, according to Resumen Latinoamericano on June 1, 2017, that “These are the most studied, discussed, and re-discussed documents in the history of the Revolution.” And, “These fundamental programs approved recently by the Central Committee of the Party, and backed now by the National Assembly of People’s Power, reaffirm the socialist character of the Cuban Revolution and the role of the Communist Party as the lead force directing society and the state.”

The documents Castro was referring to were first approved by the Cuban Communist Party’s Sixth Congress in 2011. The first document, titled “Conceptualization of the Cuban Economic and Social Model for Socialist Development,” deals with the overall project of constructing socialism in Cuba. The second, “Guidelines for Policies of the Party and the Revolution for the period 2016-2021,” sets development goals for the immediate period ahead. The third document, “Bases for a National Plan for Social and Economic Development until 2030,” is an aggregation of longer-term national targets. Amended versions of all three were passed by the party’s Seventh Congress in April 2016.

Jennifer Bello Martínez, 25 years old, presides over the Federation of University Students and is a member of Cuba’s Council of State. Speaking to a reporter for, she echoed an important theme of the two-day session: newer generations will soon be taking charge of Cuba’s revolution.

Bello declared that, “young people are at the point of being protagonists in this discussion process. The documents…speak for the full development of our generation [and] express the need for young people to regard the Revolution as a permanent undertaking.”

At its meeting, the National Assembly dealt primarily with the first and second documents, approving modifications to them. The document dealing with 2030 development goals requires further discussion and will be readied for approval by the Assembly when it meets in December 2018.

Delegates expressed concern that the documents before them contradicted each other in one important area. One section of the document on Cuba’s conception of socialism calls for the regulation of wealth and property, while the 2016-21 “Guideline” document prohibits concentration of wealth and property.

Marino Murillo, a former economics minister, told delegates that failing to deal with the quandary represents “one of the biggest risks we are facing.” It’s the most widely discussed issue in Cuba, he said, arguing also that documents won’t make a “negative phenomenon” disappear. Murillo called for private employment “to be perfected.” The National Assembly determined that regulation would continue.

The Assembly’s job was to approve the documents, which in their final form are the product of a comprehensive and unprecedented nationwide public consultation process.

After their approval and modification at the Sixth and Seventh Communist Party Congresses, a series of public meetings were held across the country. In 2016, between June 15 and September 20, a total of 14.3 percent of the Cuban population attended some 47,470 meetings at which the documents were discussed and changes proposed.

In April this year, members of the Communist Party’s Central Committee discussed proposed modifications with Assembly delegates in their home provinces. Then, at a plenary session on May 19, the Central Committee considered and approved final drafts of the documents that included amendments made along the way during the consultation process. They were then submitted to the National Assembly for consideration.

The extraordinary session began with Assembly delegates attached to four commissions charged with examining the modifications. Their discussion of the “Conceptualization” document dealt with “fundamental questions,” matters like: “concentration of property and wealth;” differences as to functions and roles of the state, governmental, and private businesses; “the Cuban educational system and its impact on society;” and “development of the personal trajectory and life of Cuban youth.”

The commissions approved 61 out of 73 proposed modifications. With these modifications added to others approved at the Seventh Party Congress, 92 percent of the original Conceptualization document has been altered.

The commissions worked on the “Guidelines” document also. The recent plenary session of the Party’s Central Committee had considered 18 proposals for modifying some of the 274 Guidelines. It accepted eight of them, and re-worked these into the six existing guidelines.

The commissions discussed and approved these. Individually they involved: “ethical behavior among leaders, workers, and organizations;” rearrangement of “entities for science, technology, and innovation;” promotion of direct foreign investment; reduction of the state’s financial contribution to social security; “rescue of the role of work and income for generating products and services;” and ways to increase state income from transportation services.

President Castro’s remarks at this special session of Cuba’s National Assembly represent one more step on that nation’s way toward a future of hope.

Reminding delegates of the need “to advance in our continuing update of the economic and social model,” Castro insisted that Cuba will “change everything that must be changed.” Furthermore, he said, “we will do it at a speed permitted by the consensus we forge within our society and our proven capacity to do things well.” We will thereby “avoid grave errors that could compromise our successful fulfilment of this gigantic and honorable task.”

Castro concluded by reaffirming Cuba’s solidarity with Venezuela’s beleaguered Bolivarian Revolution. He called also for the return of political legitimacy to Brazil.


W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.