Five reasons why the people rule

21 November 2005

Cuba Si
The magazine of CSC
Isaac Saney, an academic and author of Revolution in Motion, a major analysis of the Cuban Revolution, explains unique Cuba’s democracy
Autumn 2014
Cubans first to support Sierra Leone ebola fight
US contracts Latin American youth for subversion in Cuba

What about the workers?
Summer 2014
Gerardo: Saturday night parties and what I never realised
“Now we have air!”
Something is moving
Cuban Day against Homophobia
Spring 2014
Bacardi - supporting the blockade since 1962
Global campaigners unite in London for the Five
Focus on Haiti
Winter 2013-14
Final destination Havana for London cab
We do not fold our arms: Mandela and Cuba
Rediscovering Celia Sánchez
Autumn 2013
Latin America Conference and Fiesta Latina!
Winter 2012
Inspiration from last year's Latin America Conference
Autumn 2012
Blind Cubans Going to the Movies
ALBA – The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America
The Greatest Pain for a Father
Autumn 2012
Part II - Interview with Ricardo Alarcon, President of the Cuban Parliament
Summer 2012
An interview with Ricardo Alarcon, President of the Cuban Parliament
A revolutionary train of thought
Keeping AIDS at Bay in Cuba
Spring 2012
Sport at the heart of revolution
Summer 2011
Breaking the Silence: Beyond the Frame- Contemporary Cuban Art
Restructuring the Revolution
A manufactured dissident
A socialist path to sustainability
Spring 2011
50 years of solidarity
Revealing Che’s revolutionary roots
The Doctors’ Revolution
In Santiago it is always the 26th
Winter 2011
Habana Hoy: The New Sound of Cuban Music
Gerardo remains positive
Playa Girón
Latin lessons: What can we learn from the world’s most ambitious literacy campaign?
Autumn 2010
Daughter of Cuba
Sustaining the revolution
La revolucion energetica: Cuba's energy revolution
Cuba and the number of “political prisoners”
Summer 2010
Noam Chomsky on Cuba-US relations - exclusive
Miami 5 updates
Friends of Cuba Solidarity Campaign
Waste not, want not
Spring 2010
Remedios y sus Parrandas
The real war on terror
Cubans in Haiti
Concert for Haiti
Auntumn 2009
Interview with families of the Five
Autumn 2009
Presidio Modelo, School of Revolutionaries
Juan Almeida Bosque – hero of the revolution
Summer 2009
From here to there - Interview with Omar Puente
Pride in Cuba
Ken Gill ‘son of Cuba’
Talking to Aleida Guevara
Cuba50 - 40,000 people join the celebrations
Spring 2009
A chance encounter with Operación Milagro
Pushing for a change in UK policy
Confronting rhetoric with reality
Talking about a Revolution
Winter 2008-9
Hasta La Victoria Siempre - Interview with Cuban poet who witnessed Revolution
The revolution that defies the laws of gravity
Feminising the Revolution
Autumn 2008
After the storm - Hurricane report
Families torn apart - Miami 5 interview
TUC Congress reports
Terror in Miami - Cuba's exile community
Summer 2008
Havana rights
Changes in Cuba?
AGM Report - CSC celebrates year’s successes
Miami Five – Ten years on
Spring 2008
Celebrating 50 years of progress
Libraries at the heart of the community
Lessons for a greener world
Fidel stands down
Cuba50 – Celebrating Cuban Culture
Winter 2007/08
Fighting for the Five - Leonard Weinglass interview
The World of Work in a Changing Cuba
“In every barrio, Revolution!” - CDR Museum opens
Campaign on Barclays and extraterritoriality continues…
Autumn 2007
21st century medicine
The living legacy of Che
Interviewing Fidel
Summer 2007
Farewell to Vilma:
From Pakistan to Rotherham:
Whose rules rule?
Spring 2007
Stop the Hilton Hotels ban
Feeding the revolution
Teaching citizenship the Cuban way
Winter 06/07
Exclusive: London's Mayor visits Cuba (inglés y espanol)
Rendezvous with lies
World Circuit Records celebrates 20 years
Autumn 2006
Life without Fidel
The landing of the Granma
America's favourite immigrants
Summer 2006
From Cuba with love: Cuban doctors in Pakistan
Bush’s ‘secret’ plan for Cuba
Teatro Miramar: a dream to be realised
Spring 2006
Exporting healthcare: Cuba and the real meaning of internationalism
Let there be Light
“Hombres not Nombres”
Winter 2005-6
Confessions of an “independent” trade unionist
Europe partakes in a recipe for disaster cooked up in Washington
We are stronger than ever
Autumn 2005
Five reasons why the people rule
Education from womb to tomb
Brendan Barber pledges TUC support for Cuba
Summer 2005
Bill and Joe’s Cuban cycle adventure
Poet of Guantanamo
Participation is key to Cuba’s democracy
Spring 2005
Is Venezuela next after Iraq?
Trip of a lifetime
Justice delayed, justice denied
Winter 2004/5
Cuba's Response to AIDS
Books: Bulwark against neo-liberalism
Guide to the `Report from the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba´
Autumn 2004
Book review: Cuba’s story
Autumn 2004
Heart strings
Speaking truth to power: Cuba at the UN
Summer 2004
A revolution in culture
Cuba saved my daughter
Salud International to back Cuban internationalist doctors
Spring 2004
Miami Five: Hopeful of justice
Biotech for all
US occupation of Guantanamo Bay is illegal, says top lawyer
Winter 2003/4
Solar-powered education
Charting women’s progress since 1959
The truth about Reporters Sans Frontières
Autumn 2003
Join the CSC bike ride to Cuba
How the US stole Guantanamo Bay
Does the FCO website betray a political bias against Cuba?
Summer 2003
Hands Off Cuba Campaign Launched
Monument to freedom
EU lines up with US
UK lawyer visits Havana
Ibrahim Ferrer: a lesson in greatness
The Miami Five -an injustice too far
My secret mission to meet Fidel
Spring 2003
Beyond the beach and sun:
CSC’s Father Geoff Bottoms visits one of the Five
Cuban student tours UK
Autumn 2002
Housing for the People
Moncada Day Cycle Challenge
British credit cards hit by US sanctions
Summer 2002
Evil Spirit
From May Day In Havana To The Cradle Of The Revolution
A dream for all times
How foreigners fuel US anti-Cuba policy
Spring 2002
African Roots
How the US planned to start a war with Cuba
Toys for Cuba
Welsh Education Minister meets Fidel
Winter 2013-14
Final destination Havana for London cab
Five reasons why the people ruleCuba is almost invariably portrayed as a totalitarian regime, a veritable "gulag" guided and controlled by one man: Fidel Castro. However, this position cannot be sustained once the reality of Cuba is assessed on its own merits. Extensive democratic popular participation in decision-making is at the centre of the Cuban model of governance.
The official organs of government in Cuba are the municipal, provincial and national assemblies of the Poder Popular (People’s Power) structures. The National Assembly is the sole body with legislative authority, with delegates — as in the provincial and municipal assemblies — directly elected by the Cuban electorate. The National Assembly chooses from amongst its members the Council of State, which is accountable to the National Assembly and carries out its duties and responsibilities, such as the passage and implementation of decrees, when the Assembly is not in session.
The Council’s decisions and decrees must be ratified at subsequent sittings of the National Assembly. The Council of State also determines the composition of the Council of Ministers, and both bodies together constitute the executive arm and cabinet of the government. The President of the Council of State serves as head of both the government and state.
In surveying the Cuban electoral system several striking points emerge:

1. The system responds to the people’s demands

First, Cubans are not preoccupied with a mere mechanical implementation of a rigid, unchanging model. Contrary to dominant misconceptions, the Cuban political system is not a static entity. Cubans are involved in an intense learning process whose hallmark has been experimentation and willingness to correct mistakes and missteps by periodic renovation of their democratic project. Thus, the system responds to popular demands for adjustment.

Thus, in 1992, the Constitution and electoral laws were modified to require the direct popular election of all members of the national and provincial assemblies. Previously, only the municipal assemblies were directly elected, with the make-up of the provincial assemblies determined by a vote of municipal delegates and, in turn, the National Assembly composition established by provincial representatives. Also, the creation of the popular councils in the early 1990s was directly aimed at increasing the power of local government and reducing the impact of bureaucracy.

2. The Communist Party takes no part

Second, the function of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) is significantly circumscribed, as it does not operate as an electoral party. It is proscribed by law from playing any role in the nomination of candidates. At the municipal level, the nominations occur at street meetings, where it is the constituents who directly participate in and control the selection. Each municipality is divided into several circumscriptions, or districts, comprised of a few hundred people. Each circumscription nominates candidates and elects a delegate who serves in the local municipal assembly. There is a high degree of popular participation in the selection of candidates, marked by active and uncorked citizen interaction and involvement.

The elections at the municipal level are competitive and the casting of ballots is secret. By law, there must be at least two candidates and a maximum of eight. For example, in the 2002 municipal elections there were14,946 circumscriptions, with 13,563 municipality delegates elected out of a total of 32,585 candidates If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, then a run-off election is held between the two who obtained the most votes. Consequently, in order to complete the 2002 local government elections, a second round was held in 1,383 constituencies. At the provincial and national levels, candidacy commissions select and sift through thousands of people. The commissions are comprised of representatives from the various mass and grassroots organizations and are presided over by workers’ representatives chosen by the unions. The PCC is prohibited from participation in the work of the commissions.

Thus, it is the norm for ordinary working people to be both nominated and elected. The commissions’ recommendations are then presented to the municipal assemblies for final approval. For example, on December 1, 2002, in preparation for the 2003 national elections, the municipal assemblies approved 1,199 candidates for the provincial assemblies and 609 for the National Assembly. Thus, it is the Cuban citizenry that both selects and elects its representatives. By law, up to 50 percent of National Assembly deputies can be municipal assembly delegates. In the 1998–2003 National Assembly, 46.3 percent of the delegates were from the municipal assemblies. The other members of the National Assembly are persons from every sphere of Cuban society: the arts, sports, science, religion etc. The selection process ensures a broad representation of society.
Each member of the National Assembly, including Fidel Castro, is directly elected and must receive more than 50 percent of the vote in her or his constituency. In Cuban municipal, provincial and national elections, the turnout is very high, usually in the ninetieth percentile. The vote is by secret ballot. Also, although a single national delegate list is put to the electorate, not all candidates receive the same number of votes as Cubans exercise their discretion in a very serious, deliberate and definite fashion. There is no formal campaigning, which curtails the role of money in Cuban elections. Instead, a month before the election, a biography of each candidate is displayed in various public places, where they can be perused at the convenience of the entire electorate.

The objective of circumscribing formal campaigning is avoid the development of professional politicking in which money and backroom deals become the driving force of the political system. Elections in Cuba are free of the commercial advertising that dominates and has come to denote the political system in capitalist countries. Professional politicking and politicians are viewed as symbolic of the corrupt past and marginalization of the citizenry that characterized pre-revolutionary Cuba. Consequently, the sons and daughters of workers and peasants comprise virtually all the delegates of the national, provincial and municipal assemblies.

3. The delegates are answerable to their constituents

Third, a rare closeness exists between the elected municipal delegates and the people they serve. Each delegate must live in the electoral district (usually comprising a maximum of two thousand people). Each municipal assembly meets four times a year and elects from its membership a president, vice president and a secretary. These are the only full-time, paid positions in Cuban local government; all other members of the municipal assemblies are unpaid and continue in the jobs they had before they were elected. Delegates have a high degree of familiarity with their constituency and are constantly on call. Every six months, there is a formal accountability session at which complaints, suggestions and other community interests (planteamientos) are raised with the delegates.

The delegate must then attempt to resolve the matter or provide an explanation at the following accountability session. In short, the delegate must account for her or his work carried out since the previous session. Each planteamiento is carefully recorded, and approximately 70 percent are resolved. These planteamiento sessions have resulted in local issues being taken to the national level where they are examined and discussed, thus ensuring popular input into government policy. If constituents are dissatisfied with the performance of their representative, then she or he can be recalled or voted out in the next round of elections. In the 2002, for instance, municipal elections, only 47.87 percent were re-elected.

4. Consensus and unity rather than contest and division is the basis of the system

Fourth, the Cuban system eschews the adversarial approach that dominates the western political processes. In the work and meetings of the provincial assemblies and the National Assembly, the goal of achieving unity and consensus is central. The unanimous votes that occur are not indicative of a rubberstamp mentality but a consensus that is arrived at through extensive and intensive discussion, dialog and debate that precedes the final vote in the National Assembly: the end-point of a long, conscientious and sometimes arduous process.

The National Assembly has ten permanent commissions. At the end of 2002, for example, it met from December 16th to 20th to discuss more than forty topics, including the fishing industry, the environment, the restructuring of the sugar sector, the production of medicine and links between Cuba and the European Union, particularly Cuba’s decision to apply to join the Cotonou Agreement, an economic accord between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific states.

5. Civil society is engaged in the process

Fifth, the Cuba political system is augmented by a very active and vibrant civil society. A critical aspect of the Cuban political system is the integration of a variety of mass organizations into political activity. No new policy or legislation can be adopted or contemplated until the appropriate organization or association representing the sector of society that would be directly affected has been consulted. These organizations have very specific functions and responsibilities. In addition to the Communist Party, the Young Communist League and the Confederation of Cuban Workers, there are the Cuban Federation of Women, the Committees to Defend the Revolution, the National Association of Small Farmers and the Federation of University Students.

The mass organizations are supplemented by numerous professional and other associations that represent the specific interests of other sectors, including for example, lawyers, economists, journalists, writers and artists, the physically challenged and stamp collectors. In short, As Ricardo Aaron, president of Cuba's National Assembly underscores, "these associations and organizations embrace practically the entire universe of activities, interests and problems of all Cubans." Mass organizations, unlike the Communist Party, are granted through Article 88 (c) of the Constitution the right to propose legislation in the areas that fall under their jurisdiction.

Hence, these organizations have a dynamic existence, and Cuba is replete with almost daily assemblies, meetings and gatherings of various organizations to discuss and examine particular issues, in conjunction with the participation of government officials. This daily engagement of the citizenry with government is the essence of the Cuban political process.

TOP Isaac Saney is an academic and writer specialising in Cuba. He is author of the book Cuba: A Revolution in Motion (available from www.cubaconnect.co.uk)
Bookmark and Share RSS