Reordenamiento, Lineamientos Y Arriba: Legitimacy and Political Culture in Cuba's Reform Strategy

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Abstract

The Guidelines on Economic and Social Policy adopted by the Cuban Communist Party's 6th Congress in 2011 focus on the detail of economic policy, and have attracted political comment mainly in terms of the general implications for Cuban socialism of stronger market forces and a larger private sector. The 'updating' process, however, is not only political in terms of these implications, but also in terms of state legitimacy that may have more influence on the success of the 'updating' than economic expertise and profitability. This article addresses the legitimacy issue in terms of the impact of the public consultation on the Guidelines; in terms of the linked 're-ordering' of the workforce since 2010; and in terms of the severe critique of Cuba's elite political culture made in President Raúl Castro's keynote speeches on the updating process and on the Party's role at the 2012 Party Conference.

Keywords: PCC, Guidelines, Lineamientos, labour restructuring, Reordenamiento, state legitimacy, elite, political culture

Introduction

The question of the legitimacy of the Cuban Revolution, its Constitution and its 'party-state', has not only been raised in the commentary on the supposed transition, in Weberian terms, from Fidel Castro's charismatic authority to Raúl Castro's rational-legal authority. It was famously raised by Fidel himself in the Aula Magna (great hall) of the University of Havana, in a blunt consideration of the potential for the Revolution to self-destruct through corruption and loss of ideological commitment (Castro Ruz, F. 2005). And it has been raised directly by Raúl, in his references to the current 'updating' as the last chance of the 'historic generation' to correct past errors and secure the future of the Revolution's socialist development (Castro Ruz, R. 2012). The fundamental claim to legitimacy of Cuba's political leadership is that only the socialist revolution can preserve the sovereignty of the Cuban state and its Constitution, which, having been approved by 98 per cent of the electorate on a 98 per cent turnout, is probably the most popularly-endorsed constitution in history.

In terms of the fundamental function of protecting its citizens from external threats and from domestic criminal violence, the Cuban state has achieved great success, in often desperate circumstances. Outsiders should never underestimate the significance for state legitimacy of this defence of sovereignty, which is reinforced by the nationalist cubanía that inspired the Revolution, and has helped sustain it since the Soviet collapse (Kapcia 2000). The crucial associated claim is that only this sovereignty can protect the public health, education and cultural services, the revolutionary conquistas that have transformed the lives of Cubans, in stark contrast to the plight of people in other states. A third underpinning of the Revolution's legitimacy is multifaceted participation in Cuba's politics, at any rate in the discussion and implementation of policy, given the overwhelming power of the Party in the formation and direction of policy. Further, in their 'socialist state of workers', Cuba's workers may not direct the economy through classic workers' councils of the theoretical socialist type, but through their unions, with their constitutional rights of legislative consultation, and their workplace rights and assemblies, they enjoy policy influence and protection from oppression that are extremely rare in today's world (Ludlam 2009a).

Notwithstanding such strengths, the question of legitimacy remains closely linked to the challenges of poverty and inequality created in the Special Period, partly by the policies that secured the Revolution's survival. For at least a decade, and certainly since the national economy recovered its pre-crisis GDP, the Cuban state has been addressing the linked issues of productivity and personal incomes through policy and legislative initiatives (Ludlam 2009b, 2012). …