The Castros' Party-State
The phrase which best defines, in broad strokes, the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), which in the coming days will hold its VII Congress is the celebrated quote by King Louis XIV of France: "L'Etat, c'est moi" ( "I am the State.")
Such is the PCC, a party/state. In Mesopotamia and classical Greece, millennia ago, there were city-states, such as Babylon and Athens. And today they exist in the Vatican, and Monaco, but what is new is that there are also party/states, so seldom studied that nobody talks about it anywhere.
"No communist party in power is really a political party, unless it is an opposition party in a country featuring a democratic system." Only then does it take advantage of "idiotic parliamentarism," as Karl Marx called it, and partisan pluralism, engages in politics, electoral work, and sends representatives to Parliament, in full compliance with the law.
But Communist parties do not play fair. If they rise to power - almost always by force, and not by universal suffrage - the first thing they do is to suppress all political parties, except the Communists', and establish an autocracy similar to those of Europe's absolutist monarchies before the French Revolution. They automatically cease to be a political party and supplant the state, assuming all its functions.
It was Niccolo Machiavelli, in his work The Prince (1513), who first used the word "state" in its modern sense. Its first theoretician, he called it stato, derived from the Latin term status. Today the most widely accepted concept of the state is a set of institutions that have the authority and power to establish rules governing a society.
And that is precisely what a communist party does. It proclaims itself the holder of absolute truth (which Marx claimed to be non-existent) and takes over all public powers, abolishes private property, seizes control of the entire national economy, the armed forces, the media, education, health, culture, and even citizens' private lives.
Let's take a look at the PCC. Created by Fidel Castro in 1965, in his image and likeness, it is a massive state-administrative-ideological paramilitary apparatus of a repressive nature, whose mission is to maintain the people's "revolutionary loyalty" through iron-fisted social control and intimidation, whether veiled or explicit, a constant barrage of political-ideological propaganda, and the suppression of citizens' basic rights.
Going further than fascism
By prohibiting private enterprise, Communist parties in power go even further than fascism. The regimes headed by Mussolini, Hitler, Franco and Oliveira Salazar placed the national economy at the service of the fascist party-state's interests, but they di not abolish the private sector.
If something clearly reveals a communist party's status as a state apparatus it is that its members do not gather at regional, provincial or national forums to discuss new ideas or reach agreements, like political parties do in the "normal" world, but rather at workplaces.
In Cuba members of the PCC meet in factories, companies, schools, shops, hospitals, military units, theaters, construction sites, media facilities, etc. There is a "Party core" at every workplace, where they receive instructions to bully people and control and manage everything.
It is as if there were committees of the Democratic Party (now controlling the US Executive) at every US factory, with orders from the White House to oversee every business executive and tell them how to do their jobs. Or as if the Popular Party in Spain did the same thing at every workplace in the country.
Moreover, the CCP even violates the Leninist principle of "democratic centralism," according to which the minority must obey and comply with the decisions made by the majority of members. In Cuba, and in every communist country, it is precisely the other way around, as most have to obey, without question, what the dictator and a select group of illuminati decide. It suffices to note that, with the VII Congress of the CCP coming up, the Party's leadership did not even deign to inform members of the points to be addressed and the documents to be examined at the event – and far less to solicit their views.
All Communist leaders in power are autocratic despots, many of them with as much personal power as that wielded by Caligula or Ivan the Terrible. Let us recall five of the most notorious: Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Kim Il Sung, Fidel Castro and Pol Pot, earthly "deities" that aggravated the systemic infeasibility of the communist model, spilling rivers of blood and inflicting tragically suffering on their peoples.
In the case of Cuba, Fidel Castro's whims over his 52 years as head of the CCP and dictator constitute an internationally unprecedented litany of outrageous, idiotic, and reckless acts that sank Cubans further into poverty, in a country that had enjoyed a standard of living higher than that of some European countries before 1959. And to that we must add its crimes and human rights violations.
The paradox here is that while the Castro party's ruling cadre is very powerful, its base of members is not. They have neither the capacity nor the instruments to question the mandates handed down from above by the authorities, who control and threaten them, forcing them to toe the line. The dictator and his team know that the average Joe in the party has lost faith and no longer believes in fairy tales, scoffing at the notion that "the future belongs to socialism."
They would burn their cards
Out of fear, which leads to social hypocrisy (double standards), the members of the PCC do not confess this in their respective circles, but the vast majority of them (some 720,000, in all) do not view themselves as Marxists. Almost all of discuss with their families (in private) the deep need for profound market reforms to unleash, once and for all, the country's productive forces and attract massive foreign investment.
But the Castroist Party/State controls every sector of Cuban society. The departmental and section heads in the bureaucratic apparatus of the Central Committee are those in charge of the ministries and all the directors of the central bodies. Foreign policy is not decided at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but rather at the Central Committee's Department of International Relations. And so it is with all the Government's branches.
If you ask the average citizen the name of the president of the Provincial Assembly of the Popular Power (equivalent to his governor), he probably will not even know. But if you ask him the name of the first secretary of the PCC in his province, or his municipality, he'll be able to tell you. Because he's the one who calls the shots in the area.
Despite the PCC's high-handed control, the truth is that its base is increasingly demoralized by the system's terminal crisis, and becoming a hollow shell that could eventually disappear without a trace. If there were radical changes in Cuba, the overwhelming majority of the party's members would burn their membership cards without batting an eyelash.
But with the Castro brothers at the helm, the colossal and repressive military power and party/state's leadership are institutionally fused. Hence, there is little cause to believe that the VII Congress will yield any substantial changes to improve Cubans' lives.