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Contributions to a dictionary of late Castroism

Guidelines, forgetting, private property, historic generation: some terms recently placed in circulation by the official rhetoric.

La Habana

It was not difficult to foresee that Castroism, due to the way in which it had become a reflection of the political practices and personality of Fidel Castro, would slip into a deep crisis when he was no longer in power. His absence, however, was not a result of his death, and his brother, Raúl Castro, was placed at the helm of the nation, which has meant a protracted agony for the model, as its deterioration did not take long to become manifest. Late Castroism is this lingering twilight.

As a stage of the general phenomenon, late Castroism is not lacking in new and commonly used rhetorical resources. In this article I take the liberty of suggesting some of these new ones, mainly drawn from the language employed by the official media outlets, President Barack Obama's brilliant speech last March and, above all, the sessions of the VII Congress of the CCP, which finished a few days ago.

Guidelines (lineamientos): This is a novelty of late Castroism, in contrast to the preceding stage. It is a contrivance based on the reasoning that State policies can be determined by "guidelines" lacking Constitutional or legal status. From this point of view, Guidelines represent an intensification of Castroism's traditional contempt for its own legal and political regulations.

"They were discussed with all the people and fall within what is legitimate, as they are to overcome the crisis, and bolster development, even if some measures are not in accordance with the Constitutional framework" (Alina Martínez, "40th anniversary of our Constitution: The framework necessary for our socialism", interview of Marta Prieto Valdés, Trabajadores, Feb. 21, 2016).

The Guidelines, however, have a significant institutional impact. During the VII Congress it was revealed that 22% of them had been fully implemented, while most of them featured some level of implementation, which had entailed "the issuance of 344 new legal regulations, of different levels, the modification of 55, and the abrogation of 684" (Juventud Rebelde April 19, 2016).

But their illegality is not the least attractive of the Guidelines' characteristics. Drawn up with the manifest intention of improving Cuba's economic performance, five years after their issuance, and with a high level of implementation, the results are meager: "Murillo, who chaired the commission, indicated that during the period there were no major changes in the structure of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with sectors like Agriculture making a paltry contribution ... " (Martha Andrés and Jorge Legañoa, "The progress of reform," Trabajadores, April 18, 2016).

However, nothing deserves more attention at a congress than the progress made on the Guidelines. At the Seventh Congress of the PCC discussion of them was assigned to the Third Committee, made up of 312 delegates and 112 guests, making it the event's most important (Martha Andrés and Jorge Legañoa, "The progress of reform," Trabajadores, April 18, 2016).

Resistance (Resistencia): The biggest novelty that late Castroism brings to this concept is the emptying of the weak rhetoric that gives rise to it. The diplomatic rapprochement with the US is the root cause of this phenomenon, manifest before, but which lost, with the event, any residual basis.

As a system of masses, in Castroism resistance is reduced to a collective abstraction, a kind of resistance by all to something – most often "imperialism" or "the empire." The notion polarizes social conflicts and renders daily antagonisms irreconcilable, essential aspects of totalitarian control.

Related to sacrifice, the term “resistance” is wielded in an attempt to associate the heroic character that Castroism attributes to itself with the misery to which it condemns citizens: "We reached that point thanks to the heroic resistance and sacrifices of the Cuban people ..." ( "Central Report to the VII Congress of the CCP" Juventud Rebelde, April 17, 2016).

Historic generation (Generación histórica): This term seeks to mask the grotesque fact that a group of very old men, 90 and 85 years old, who have clung to power for nearly 60 years, are actually talking about renewal and rejuvenation.

"... some will be 75 or 80, and can carry out important tasks, but not hold important leadership positions, for obvious reasons ..." ( "Central Report to the VII Congress of the CCP" Juventud Rebelde, April 17, 2016).

The measure, which was launched at the Seventh Party Congress, to prevent access to the Central Committee by those over the age of 60, and the phasing out of the historic generation, confuses one generation with another and simultaneously bars from power those who have held it for nearly six decades and the next generation, which naturally seemed destined to succeed it.

Thus, the notion of the “historical generation” was confirmed at the VII Congress not only for marketing purposes, but also as part of a convoluted political stratagem.

Private property (propiedad privada). One of the most notable changes of late Castroism has been its acknowledgement and appreciation of private property. "The recognition of the existence of private property has generated honest concerns among more than a few participants during pre-Congress discussions ... (…) The idea ... is to call things by their names and not take refuge in illogical euphemisms to hide reality "(" Central Report to the VII Congress of the CCP " Juventud Rebelde, April 17, 2016).

To validate private property late Castroism not only did not hesitate to praise the capitalism contemporary to it, but also the formidable Constitution of 1940, thereby transcending two essential arguments of its ideological discourse: the injustice of the capitalist system and the institutional poverty prior to 1959.

Homero Acosta, the secretary of the Council of State, asserted at the Seventh Congress that: "Private ownership of the means of production must be defined according to its social function (...) in capitalism in its initial stage the owner of property could do whatever he wanted with it. But the development of capitalism, and various historic elements, led to gradual changes in legislation with respect to private property. That is the genesis of the concept of social function. In Cuba the 1940 Constitution recognized the social function of private property "(Alina Perera Robbio, "Enriquecen proyecto de modelo del socialismo cubano",  Juventud Rebelde, April 17, 2016).

The acceptance of private property did not occur, however, along with a general recognition of all the prejudices that had been behind its prohibition, but rather elements associated with its success, like the accumulation of capital and property, which were proscribed: "Guideline No. 3, approved by the VI Congress, and which it is proposed to maintain and strengthen in the updated plan, flatly states that "in non-state forms of  management the concentration of property will not be permitted," adding that "neither will wealth" (Central report to the VII Congress of the PCC, Juventud Rebelde, April 17, 2016).

Forgetting (olvido): Support for forgetting certain aspects of history  in late Castroism entails several difficulties arising from a desire to retain its political control, unchanged, even as the system's economic fundamentals are undone and it is hoped, nevertheless, that no significant changes will occur.

"The introduction of the rules of supply and demand is not incompatible with the principle of planning. Both concepts can coexist and complement each other to benefit the country, as has been successfully demonstrated in the reform processes in China, and renovation in Vietnam, as they describe it. We have called it "updating" because we are not going to change the fundamental objective of the Revolution"("Central Report to the VII Congress of the PCC" Juventud Rebelde, April 17, 2016).

While the socialist intention to overturn the economic procedures identified with capitalism, supposedly due to their unjust and exclusive character, is abandoned in favor of the rules of the market economy, the sole party and the preponderance of the State are maintained, their existence explained only as guarantors of the socialist economic order.

This doctrinal transformation, made in haste and without preambles, marks a significant act of willful forgetting, and not a merely theoretical step. To put an end to private property, now re-established, in the 60s a considerable number of large landowners were pursued, followed by more moderate fortunes and, finally, through the so-called   Revolutionary Offensive, in 1968, even small ones. And, to suppress resistance by them, they were converted into enemies of the working class, and absolutely brutal action was taken against them. The restoration of the market economy by those responsible for such aggression makes the calculated forgetting involved in this action a crime.

While in this way late Castroism makes deliberate forgetting an element of its official ideology, it, nevertheless, continues to call for a struggle against it, branding it a ploy of the enemy.

The speech by US President Barack Obama at the Gran Teatro in Havana was an important turning point for the State's renewed criticism of forgetting about the past. The shock suffered by the Castroist political elite, and the widespread enthusiasm sparked by the leader’s visit, unleashed waves of criticism of the speech by the official media.

"Now what does Obama want? Let's not forget how successive governments stopped us, through a fierce blockade, from buying food, medicines and other goods to develop and achieve what he calls for today for this ‘poor and suffering people’ (Alina Perera Robbio, "Thank you, Obama ..." Juventud Rebelde, March 23, 2016).

"This is why we cannot accept, unappalled, his plea to forget history as a way towards progress in our relations" (Yoerky Cuellar, "The white rose and the necessary fertilizer", Juventud Rebelde, March 23, 2016).

The surprising thing is that the President never said that things must be forgotten. This distortion made possible an attack on a brilliant speech, while its most vexing aspects for late Castroism's elite were conveniently avoided.

The contradictions involved in forgetting the past, towards conflicting purposes, do not cease to amaze the official spokesmen themselves. Less than a month before private property was extolled by the official elite for its social value, one of Castroism's ideological minions had stated in an article against President Obama's speech that "Stimulating private initiative Cuba, when, as a Harvard professor, he knows that the greatest truth in the Communist Manifesto is that it is abolished, in practice, for nine-tenths of humanity, is not exactly an act of honesty" (Iroel Sanchez, "Obama in the great theater, or Obama's great theater in Havana? " Juventud Rebelde, March 23, 2016).

It is too much to expect, of course, that the fickle passion of such voices might point out on this occasion the dishonesty of Raúl Castro, or Homero Acosta. They will, no doubt, continue to laud late Castroism and their outdated reflections will, like so many other things, be forgotten.

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