Raúl Castro addressing a session of the Sixth Congress of the Comminst Party in April 2011.
Less than a month remains before the 7th Party Congress, which will begin next April 16, when the 55th anniversary will be celebrated of the proclamation of the socialist character of the Revolution, and exactly five years since the opening of the 6th Congress. The Congress will continue through the 19th, thus fulfilling one of the objectives (number 17) approved at the First National Conference: Maintain time frame established in the Statutes for holding Party congresses.
This past February 29, Granma published a full report on the process of electing delegates to the Congress, and the following day noted the simultaneous beginning in all provinces of consultation meetings to discuss the documents which will be submitted to the Party’s maximum authority.
The editorial office of this newspaper has received, by various means, expressions of concern from Party members (and non-members, as well) inquiring about the reasons for which, on this occasion, plans were not made for a popular discussion process, similar to that held five years ago regarding the proposed Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and Revolution.
The fact that such opinions and doubts were expressed is in no way reproachable, much less when they come from people who are genuinely concerned about the work of the Party and the country’s destiny. On the contrary, this is a demonstration of the democracy and participation which are intrinsic characteristics of the socialism we are building. Army General Raúl Castro himself, during the closing session of the First National Conference, called for “fomenting a climate of maximum confidence and the creation of required conditions at all levels for the broadest and most sincere exchange of opinions, both in the heart of the organization and in its interactions with workers and the population…”
And it has been a tradition (or rather, a political right won) throughout the long history of the Revolution that the people have always been consulted, when big decisions are made. The First and Second Declarations of Havana were adopted in José Martí Plaza de la Revolución, and with similar popular participation, that of Santiago de Cuba was approved in the 1960s. The overwhelming vote of approval of the vast majority provided our Republic with a socialist Constitution. In the most difficult days of the Special Period, Workers Parliaments throughout the length and breadth of the country reiterated that Cuba would continue being an eternal Baragua.
Still fresh in the memory of all Cubans is the exemplary fashion in which discussion of the original 291 Guidelines was organized. They were published November 9, 2010, and over a three month period (December of 2010 through February, 2011) they were debated by the entire people, in 163,079 meetings with 8,913,838 participants. Some 3,019,471 comments were made, which were grouped in 781,644 areas of opinion. All were analyzed in detail, and as a result, 94 guidelines (32%) were maintained as proposed; 197 were modified or incorporated into others (68%); and 36 new guidelines were added. The resulting 311 were first discussed at the provincial level, and later in Congress sessions by delegates and invited experts. Eighty-six guidelines were modified at that time (28%) and two new ones approved. Thus the definitive 313 Guidelines were written, as a genuine expression of the people’s will, reaffirmed with approval by the National Assembly of People’s Power.
The Congress agreed on procedures to ensure that the approved guidelines would not simply be filed away, advising the government to create a Standing Commission for Implementation and Development, which, without derogating the roles of Central State Administrative Bodies, would guarantee coordination and comprehensiveness in the complex process of updating the country’s model. The Congress likewise indicated that the Party, at all levels, would supervise, promote, and demand the fulfillment of the approved guidelines.
Since then, both in Central Committee Plenums and the National Assembly, the practical implementation of what was approved has been analyzed twice a year, discussions about which ample information has been provided by different media, as has been the case with Council of Ministers meetings which have approved policies to assure the guidelines’ implementation.
It has always been clear that this would not be an easy task, since this was no experiment in a sterile laboratory, but rather a fundamental transformation at the social level, based on the unassailable premise of not applying shock therapies, so common in capitalist countries, or leaving anyone unprotected. All of this set in the context of an international economic crisis and the pernicious, ever-present blockade.
Raúl alerted in the Central Report he presented to the Congress, “We are convinced that the task we have before us, on this and other issues linked to the updating of our economic model, is full of difficulties and interrelations which touch, to one degree or another, all facets of society as a whole, and thus we know that it is not a question to be resolved in a day, not even in a year, and that it will require at least five years for implementation to unfold with the harmony and comprehensiveness needed…”
And this is how it has gone. The balance sheet on what has been accomplished in five years reveals that 21% of the guidelines have been implemented, while 77% are in the process. The remaining 2% (five guidelines) have not been carried out for different reasons. It must be taken into account that the implementation of a number of the most complex changes began in 2014 and 2015, and the initial results are just beginning to be seen.
Given all of the above, rather than launching another process of discussion on a national level, half way along the road, what is more appropriate is finishing what has begun - continuing to carry out the people’s will expressed five years ago, and continuing to advance in the direction charted by the 6th Congress.
In this way, the 7th Congress will culminate discussions held in assemblies at the grassroots, municipal and provincial levels. The reports presented in the provinces were published in full in local newspapers, and their content debated in hundreds of meetings around the country.
The documents which will be submitted to the Congress are the result of a collective drafting process, with the participation of dozens of officials, researchers in economics and the social sciences, and professors. They have been analyzed by the Implementation Commission’s Scientific Council composed of more than 130 highly qualified experts.
Subsequently, in the Central Committee Plenums of December, 2015 and January, 2016, the documents were discussed, after several drafts had been perfected. Observations and proposals made by this Party leadership body were taken into account in new versions of each of the six texts which were finally submitted to the consultation meetings of delegates, held simultaneously in all provinces, the first week of March.
Present at these meetings were all delegates, nominated at the grassroots level and elected democratically, representing the Party’s membership and the Cuban people as a whole. Women have a significant presence (43%), and while for logical reasons given an event of this kind, many men and women with a great deal of experience were elected, there are 55 young Party members under the age of 35 among the delegates.
Also attending the consultation meetings were more than 3,500 invited guests who likewise made proposals to enrich the documents. Among those participating were all National Assembly deputies, representatives from Central State Administrative Bodies, university professors, researchers from scientific centers, veterans, grassroots leaders of mass organizations, representatives of our civil society, religious leaders, students, farmers, intellectuals and artists, including non-members of the Party.
One of the documents evaluates the national economy’s performance during the five year period, 2011-2015; another, progress in the implementation of guidelines; and a third, an updating of these for 2016-2021.
A fourth document of profound theoretical importance is the conceptualization of Cuba’s socio-economic model of socialist development; while the fifth presents the Economic Development Program through 2030. These last two are both focused on the country we want, and constitute an expression of the nation’s economic and social strategy - with the guidelines approved by the 6th Congress serving as the tactical approach to reach our aspirations, reflecting their continuity and development. These documents do not, therefore, represent anything different in terms of the road taken, but rather a higher level expression based on what has been discussed and submitted for consultation to all Party members and the people.
The sixth document evaluates the implementation status of the First National Conference’s objectives approved in January of 2012. It includes a generally favorable balance sheet, and projects continued work on these goals.
One can imagine the complexity of drafting these documents, which in some cases required more time than initially supposed.
They are all closely interrelated, analyzing what has been accomplished to date, what remains to be done, and charting the future on the socio-economic and political-ideological planes. They cannot be seen through a static lens; they will be debated at the 7th Congress and, as was the case with their antecedents, they will be submitted to periodic reviews.
The 7th Congress will give continuity to the previous Congress and the First National Party Conference, and provide a much more precise definition of the path to be taken by our country - sovereign and truly independent since the triumph of the Revolution, January 1, 1959 - in order to build a prosperous and sustainable socialism.