A ‘Brown Agenda’ for Cuba
A 'Brown Agenda' for Cuba
December 13, 2011
Haroldo Dilla Alfonso*
HAVANA TIMES, Dec 13 — Throughout my 11 long years as a member of the
Cuban Communist Party, I would review — with complete seriousness — all
of the documents prior to each party congress. I did this in relation to
the 1990 Fourth Congress (my first), excited about its proposals for
more internal debate and greater democratic spaces. I also reviewed the
documents of the Fifth Congress, in 1997, but with absolute frustration,
as that congress signaled retreat and my ultimate exasperation.
Now I've made a similar review of the document that is serving as the
basis for the upcoming January Party Conference, which is supposed to
deal with issues regarding the Party not dealt with at the Sixth
Congress in April of this year.
The document is laconic, gray and contradictory. For example, it calls
for creativity precisely in a country where creativity is severely
punished when one transgresses the narrow norms of what is politically
acceptable. Likewise, something nicer, it attacks dogmas while at the
same time calling for the updating of the dogmatic rubbish that it calls
It gives the impression of being a schizophrenic document, distanced
from the reality that it attempts to interpret. It is an overpowering
demonstration of the political cretinism of a devalued organization.
Perhaps the greatest virtue of the document wasn't intended: It informs
us of the status of the intra-elite pact agreed to in 2009 to punish the
bad boys that Fidel Castro had promoted in the 90's as the finest
interpreters of his thoughts, but who ended up being seduced "by the
honey of power."
It appears that a romance with no future has been struck between the
party bureaucracy and military technocrats, who apparently started their
maiden voyage with the most recent party congress (April 2011). It was
then that the general/president gave his closing speech, lashing out at
the party bureaucrats – despite having sworn that he wasn't going to
address issues of that nature.
In the same vein, the document reveals how Raul Castro is eliminating
from the upper echelons the weight of this petty and parasitic
bureaucracy, who are incapable of imagining a capitalist future, as does
This isn't because the members of the bureaucracy are socialists, but
because they're pre-capitalist and because they have thrived within the
apparatus and lost the ability to imagine anything. This is why they
have left this absurd but harmless exercise.
This is also because it was long ago that the party ceased being the
driving force of the government and society, as stated in the
constitution. Perhaps it acted close to this between 1975 and 1985, when
Soviet subsidies imposed a certain order and institutionalism, but as an
organization, it has gradually weakened since the beginning of the
"rectification" period, as noted by Professor Eusebio Mujal.
Today this role is played by the Revolutionary Armed Forces, which has
cornered the main governing bodies, particularly the Politburo. The fact
that the Politburo is associated with the party is mere formalism; it
actually belongs to the military and its technocrats.
This does not mean that the party is unimportant.
Within it are something like a million and half people, which include —
along with opportunists of all stripes — honest people who believe in a
better future different from that offered by capitalists.
Above all, however, it includes troops who are loyal — out of expedience
or conviction — and are vital as supports of the system.
The party is, therefore, a structure of members who are more or less
committed to the cause, willing to explain the government's arguments,
and who try to convince, but who ultimately suppress those who persist
in thinking differently.
It is a formidable socio-political control apparatus; one that the
Raulist updating — always concerned about un-programmed leaps — cannot
Finally, it is a place for interaction between elite factions, it is a
place where each band has something to contribute.
The reformists "updaters" provide the cadre for economic change, led by
the ineffable Marino Murillo.
The conservative spectrum provides the managers who bring order to this
feast of primitive accumulation – choosing who can participate, who
can't, and finally how one can participate without altering the rules.
Adding to all of this, as if pulled out of Raul's sleeve, has appeared
Gladys Bejerano, the comptroller in charge of prosecuting excessively
outrageous corruption with a straight face and sharp language.
Whether this implies institutional heresy is a third level matter. Fidel
Castro always ruled violating institutions, and even when he was
sidelined he proceeded to assemble a structure parallel to everything
that existed, forming it under the enigmatic banner of the "Battle of
Similarly, in faraway China, Deng Xiao Ping — the man who was only
interested in cats hunting mice — had more power than an emperor, though
under the discrete title of president of the military commission of the
In short, don't expect anything dramatic from this party conference.
It's possible that the Machado Ventura faction will lose some positions,
but what Raul Castro really needs in the party is a "gray man" [strict
conservative] like Machado.
Machado is required to do the work of a dark band of officials who have
forgotten the meaning of a smile, like the diabolical girl in the Adams
family, but more predictable.
What we have then are gray men for a party that claims to be red but who
will have to execute a "brown agenda" (as the environmentalists say),
recycling the solid waste of the updating.
For all of that, and for the moment, Machado Ventura is ideal.
(*) Published originally in Spanish by Cubaencuentro.