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The Cuban Communist Party and the Workers Central Union

July 2, 2013 Leave a comment

The XCIII Plenary of the National Council of the Workers Central Union of Cuba (CTC) that recently met under the chairmanship of the Second Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), agreed to postpone the celebration of its XX Congress, create an Organizing Committee and appoint Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento to its leadership.

The postponement of the XX Congress was made so that the newly created Organizing Committee would have more time to organize the event, which has a pending discussion on the Draft of the Labor Code Bill and on the Congress Rules document.

Considering that another Plenary of the National Council of the CTC in which the progress of the organization efforts for the Congress were discussed took place just a month ago, the following questions arise: Why wasn’t the date for the Congress proposed at the time? Why was Carmen Rosa López ratified at the front of the CTC until the celebration of the XX Congress? And why wasn’t the Organizing Committee created during the time of the convening or last month at the Plenary?

The answers seem to be related to the difficulties encountered in the preparatory meetings. If so, doubts point to a poor preparation and to the inability of the Second Secretary of the CTC to reach the goals set by the Communist Party (PCC). This assumption is based on the fact that Carmen Rosa López had been appointed as the head of the PCC until the celebration of the event and had been elected Member of the State Council, which indicated that she was going to be “the chosen one” as Secretary General in the XX Congress. However, surprisingly, she had just been replaced by Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento, who was the Secretary General of the PCC in the Province of Artemisa two weeks ago.

The discussion topics, according to the preparatory meetings of the XX Congress, will be related to the economy and represent an unavoidable duty for the CTC and its unions to achieve the conscious mobilization and participation of all workers in the fulfillment of the economic and social policies that were passed in the VI Congress.

Nonetheless, in the preparatory meetings the inadequacies that conspire against what the PCC expects from the union movement were highlighted. By that I mean keeping the CTC as the only labor union under the control of the PCC to ensure support for the implementation of the recent reform Guidelines; for such purpose it would be necessary to enroll all workers under the same union, the CTC, particularly those self-employed from the private sector, who would tend to grow and provide the strength without which reaching the expected results would be impossible.

Some of the criteria expressed during the process shed light on what happened. Salvador Valdés Mesa explained in Matanzas, on March 8th, that even when retirees, state and non-state affiliates, represent three sources of affiliation with different interests, it is the self-employed who are demanding special attention because of the novelty they represent to the union movement. Then later that month,  in the report to the XCII Plenary, Valdés emphasized in the shortcomings faced in the functioning of the organization, in the affiliation of workers and he made a call to combat crime, illegalities and to perfect the workers’ guard service.

Meanwhile in an interview published in Granma on April 27th, Carmen Rosa López said, “We still frequently find in the collective convening of workers that they have not been affiliated because of the shortcomings of our work,” and she also said that in all of the questionnaires and assessments completed this year the statements from the assembly members make reference to wages; which shows that the goals set took a different path from that of the workers’ concerns.

The recurring concerns expressed by the workers show their non-recognition of the unions as representatives of their interests, especially after the statement made by the Workers Central Union (CTC) in September of 2010 in favor of the layoffs, a measure that directly affected workers and their families. The statement said: Our State cannot nor should it continue to sponsor companies, institutions of production and services that are budgeted with inflated payrolls and result in losses that drag down the economy, which is counterproductive, generates bad habits, and distorts the codes of conduct of workers.

To summarize, the main goal of the Congress is to emphasize the performance that is expected from workers by the PCC in the implementation of the Guidelines for reform, not to address their particular problems, such as the insufficient wages and pensions in relation to the cost of living, among others, which has led Cubans to survive on the fringes of the law turning their backs on the so-called ideology while creating a negative attitude that hinders the realization of any social project.

We have to remember that unions in Cuba emerged to defend the interests of workers  when paid work began replacing slave labor; that the labor movement became widespread with the General Law of Associations of 1888 and then with freedoms and rights recognized in the Constitution of 1901; that it showed its strength with the founding of the National Confederation of Workers of Cuba in 1925 and with a general strike in 1933 that toppled Gerardo Machado’s regime; that it achieved the passing of a number of labor laws, including the most important in Cuban labor legislation — Decree 798 of 1938 — which was subsequently endorsed in the Constitution of the Republic; that this development led to the birth of the CTC in 1939; and that joint committees were created to set a minimum wage standard, the terms to the right of collective bargaining and other measures in line with the established by the International Labor Organization.

Therefore, unions became an important sector of Cuba’s civil society to the point that in 1945 the CTC became the second largest trade union in the region with half a million members.

The takeaway is that workers’ participation in programs from the State or a political party, if it takes place, must be based on the interests, needs and decisions of workers themselves, a vital premise to the defense of their own interests.

Therefore, the postponement of the date of the Congress, from November of this year to the first trimester of 2014, has its roots in the conversion of the CTC into an auxiliary organization to the goals of the PCC, resulting in the loss of its independence and leading to the distortion of its original purpose. It is a situation beyond the capabilities of Salvador Valdés Mesa, Carmen Rosa Lópeza, Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento or any other individual appointed to the leadership of  Cuban labor unionism.

The only way out, which depends on a political will so far nonexistent, is not in changing political figures or in modifying documents pending for discussion, it is in the freedom of association. This way the PCC could keep the CTC as an auxiliary organization and allow those workers who do not want to be CTC members to form other labor unions and freely join them. This would also be a response to the remarks and recommendations that were given to Cuba in a recent evaluation by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.

Published in Diario de Cuba

Translated by Chabeli

3 June 2013

20 May 1902, The Possible Republic

Decorations for the birth of the Cuban Republic 20 May 1902

Decorations for the birth of the Cuban Republic 20 May 1902

Once the flag of the stripes and stars was lowered amid popular rejoicing on 20 May 1902, Generalissimo Máximo Gómez proceeded to raise the national ensign at Palace of the General Captains. “I think we have made it,” were his words that day.

After four centuries of colonialism, three decades of independence wars, and more than three years of foreign occupation the Republic of Cuba was officially born. This new date altogether with January 28, anniversary of the birth of the Apostle (José Martí), October 10, the Cry of Yara, February 24, the beginning of the War of Independence, and December 7, the fall of the Bronze Titan (Antonio Maceo), would form a pentarchy of illustrious anniversaries, with a singularity when it comes to political material; May 20th taught us a lesson: negotiation.

In an attempt to reduce its importance and to shape this event into a particular ideology and into the objectives of those in power, May 20 has been compared to the military coup d’etat of 1952, and it has even been denied as the event that marked the birth of the Republic. An example of the latter was the opinion expressed by historian Rolando Rodríguez who said that May not be remembered as the day that marked the birth of the Republic because the Republic had already emerged in Guáimaro on April 10th of 1869… “That is where the origin of the Cuban Republic is,” he said.

Guáimaro, undoubtedly, is inseparable from the foundation of the Republic. It represents the beginning of that process, but that is different from the moment when it became a reality, when Cuba, despite the imposed limitations, debuted as an independent country, recognized by the international community. Guáimaro is the building block, but the advent, despite what our personal inclinations may be, was in 1902. Rolando simply confuses process and results.

His rejection of the date is not illogical. It is true that the Republic was not born with absolute independence or full sovereignty, but his reasoning does not take into account that this outcome did not only result from the effort and bloodshed of Cubans, as was desired, but also from the entry of the US Army into the war due to the geopolitical interests that were being defined in the international arena by the world powers of that time period. Like it or not, beyond our desires, that is what happened.

After Spain’s defeat and the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the occupying government issued Order No. 301 on 25 July 1900, calling the Cuban people to a general election to appoint the delegates of the Constitutional Assembly that would develop the Constitution and would define Cuba’s relationship with the United States. A commission charged with the task of defining US-Cuba relationships, but their result was rejected by US authorities. After multiple discussions, procedures and disagreements, the delegates received a final blow.

The Platt Amendment, passed and signed by the president of the United States, was delivered to the delegates to be incorporated into the Constitution, and it included a note signed by the Secretary of War stating that the President “is required to comply with [the ultimatum] and to execute it as it is […] he can neither change it nor modify it, add or take out anything,” as a condition of ending the military occupation.

What were the factors that led those Cubans to approve a document so lacerating to independence and national sovereignty? Simply, that they could not count on anything else, but their commitment, dignity, intelligence and capability to fight in the political arena. And that is what drove them, regardless of whether one or the other may have felt some sort of admiration for the occupying government. To add to this quandary, the Liberation Army had been demobilized, the Cuban Revolutionary Party dissolved, the Nation had not reached a crystallization point and lacked a Republic, with a State and a government of its own, and the people were exhausted from by the prolonged war.

The events that took place in March of 1901 attested to this. After the objectives of the Platt Amendment were publicly known, a demonstration of about 15,000 people walked through the streets of the capital toward the Martí theater, the headquarters of the Consitutional Assembly, to the residence of the military governor in Arms Square, demanding independence and sovereignty with an invocation directed to the American people.

However, a few days later, when a delegation of Cubans embarked to the United States to discuss our nonconformity only about 200 people showed up for their departure and barely a few dozen attended their return: a clear expression of the exhaustion and helplessness of the people in general.

In this situation, although intransigence might have seemed very patriotic, it was groundless and of no use. Choosing belligerence would have been suicidal before the superiority of the occupier.

The “all or nothing” expressed in “Freedom or Death,” “Independence or Death,” “Motherland or Death,” or “Socialism or Death” has proved itself unreal. Life went on after 1878 when we were not able to get our freedom. Life went on after 1898 when we did not completely win our motherland. Today, while this totalitarian Socialism is dying out, life goes on, which proves that intransigence, despite its solemn declarations, has contributed very little.

However, despite that this Republic of incomplete independence and limited sovereignty was not precisely the one José Martí dreamed of, Cuba joined the international community with a juridical personality of its own and closed the doors to annexation; the occupying army was withdrawn, and our destiny would not be that of Puerto Rico, Guam or the Philippines.

Time proved our wisdom. In 1904 the Hay-Quesada Treaty was signed, and our sovereignty over Island of Pines was recovered in 1925. In less than 20 years, Cuba managed to emerge from the economic stagnation and the social upheaval caused by the war; civil society strengthened; in 1934 we got rid of the Platt Amendment, and in 1939 the Constitutional Assembly convened, from which later emerged the brand-new 1940 Constitution that served Dr. Fidel Castro to support his defense at his trial for the Moncada Barracks assault in 1953.

Reminding ourselves that this Constitution endorsed the fundamental rights in the First Section of Part IV would be wiser than judging the Cuban delegates: the essence and spirit of habeas corpus, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association for all legal purposes and freedom of movement. Freedoms/rights, inherent to human beings, that are the foundation of the respect and observance of legal guarantees, of citizen participation and the realization of popular sovereignty. Rights that are mostly absent today.

Published in Diario de Cuba

Translated by Chabeli

31 May 2013

The Constitution of La Yaya and the Future Cuban Constitution / Dimas Castellanos

On the 29th of October of 1897 in the pasture of La Yaya, in Sibanicú, Camagüey, the drafting of what would become the last mambí Constitution came to an end. The resulting text represented a qualitative leap forward in Cuba’s constitutional history. This was due to the inclusion, for the first time, of a dogmatic part that included the most advanced individual political and civil rights at the time: habeas corpus, freedom and confidentiality of postal communications, freedom of religion, equality before taxation, freedom of education, right to petition, inviolability of the home,  universal suffrage, freedom of expression and the right of assembly and association.

This result was determined by multiple causes; particularly because the always-present interdependence between development and individual freedoms in every social project is reflected in the constitutional history of human rights.

For example: the Magna Carta imposed by the English nobility on John Lackland in 1215, the Habeas Corpus Act of 1674, the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the United States’ Declaration of Independence of 1776, and France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789. These, among other documents, spread at a global level, along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, put into force in 1976.

Cuba’s constitutional history began in the colonial period with the Project for an Autonomous Government in Cuba, drafted in 1811 by Father José Agustín Caballero. In 1812, Joaquín Infante, an attorney from Bayamo, drafted the Constitutional Project for the Island of Cuba, and in 1821, priest Félix Varela drafted the Project of Instruction for the Politically and Economically Autonomous Government of the Overseas Provinces. Later, during the wars of independence, in a context of contradictions between military and civil law, Cuba’s constitutional history was enriched by the mambí legislation.

On the 10th of April of 1869, the Guáimaro Constitution, in which an emphasis on civil law was imposed, was signed. This Basic Law based on a tripartite division of powers, gave the legislative power to a House of Representatives that had the authority to appoint and depose the President of the Republic in Arms and the Commander-in-Chief. The executive power was in the hands of the President, and the judiciary was independent.

Despite the facts that it was created during the war of independence and that the House of Representatives was granted authority over the Republic’s sovereignty, the Constitution’s emphasis on civil law? allowed for the rights and freedoms of all Cubans to be protected? in Article 28 as follows: “The House cannot attack the right to freedom of religion, freedom of the press, peaceful assembly, education and petition, or any inalienable right of the people.” According to Dr. Oscar Loyola, in Guáimaro, the possibility of a military dictatorship, always latent in a historical process of this nature, was programmatically eliminated.

From the 13th to the 18th of September of 1895, at the rebirth of the war of independence in Cuba, a new Constitution was drafted in Jimaguayú, which reflected the experience gained from The Ten Years War. As M. Sc Antonio Álvarez expressed, three groups of interests intersected in this document: predominance of military power, José Martí’s principles and an exacerbated anti-militarism, between those who had a pact of interests reflected in that the highest authority of the State was concentrated in a Council of Government with powers to dictate all matters relating to the civil and political life of the revolution; in other words, this body had executive and legislative powers. Article 24 limited the validity of this Constitution to a period of two years.

In compliance with this article, a new Constituent Assembly met in La Yaya from the 13th to the 29th of October. The resulting Constitution readopted the civilian character from Guáimaro. It consolidated the organization of power in civil institutions, and closed the cycle of the type of constitutionalism that had resulted from the wars of independence (Guáimaro, Baraguá, Jimaguayú, and La Yaya), which, obstructed by the American occupation and the imposition of the Platt Amendment, gave way to the Republican Period. The best evidence of the scope and importance of La Yaya is that the civil and political rights enshrined in this document were readopted and enriched in the constitutions of 1901 and 1940.

The advocates of the supremacy of militarism wondered: Why did the Basic Law include a dogmatic part whose immediate purpose was to serve as judicial instrument during wartime? The answer to this question had been already answered in several writings by José Martí, for whom the Republic had become the definition of the democratic soul of the nation.

Martí established a logical genetic relationship between war, independence, and the Republic, where the first was a bridge to reach the last one.  This is why he clearly defined the purposes of the war, so that after that conquest of immediate independence, these then would become the seeds of tomorrow’s long-lasting independence. He believed that, in times of victory, only the seeds that were planted in times of war thrive.

In his speech, “With All and for the Good of All,” delivered in November of 1891, Martí said: “Let’s close the doors to a Republic that is not founded on means worthy of the decorum of men, for the good and the prosperity of all Cubans!” In April of 1893, he expressed: “That is the greatness of the Revolutionary Party: that to found a Republic, it has started from a Republic. That is its strength: “that in the work of all, are the rights of all.” In the Montecristi Manifest, he wrote: “Our motherland must be built, from its roots, upon feasible ways that are self-born, so that a government that lacks truth and justice cannot lead it to the path of favoritism or tyranny.”

The post-1959 events are what best proves the importance of the civil law emphasis of the Constitution of La Yaya.  After 17 years of government under The Basic Law of the Republic of Cuba, the Constitution of 1976, which abolished the Constitution of 1940 and made political and civil rights were subject to the legitimization of the Communist Party as the maximum leading force of the State and society, was approved; something alien and contrary to the day when a new Constituent Assembly, elected by the people, assumes the task of drafting a Magna Carta that includes our constitutional heritage and shapes it into the reality of today’s Cuba and of the winds blowing across the universe.

Originally published in El Diario de Cuba

Translated by: Chabeli 

1 November 2012

Explanatory Note

Several articles, which I have now re-uploaded, disappeared from my blog for unknown reasons, among them “Baseball Classic III” and “Are There Unions in Cuba?” published in Diario de Cuba on the 26th of March and on the 4th of April of 2013, respectively. I apologize to the readers for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Dimas Castellanos

Translated by: Chabeli

22 April 2013