File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 221

Date: Sun, 12 Oct 1997 08:36:52 -0400
Subject: M-I: Castro: "We have no reason to create millionaires"

October 12, 1997

Cuban Communist Party Peers Ahead, Then Votes to March in Place


HAVANA, Cuba -- Faced with the uncomfortable options of moving ahead or
turning back, Cuba's Communist Party has seemingly opted to do neither.

At a three-day party congress that ended here late Friday with chants of
"Fi-del! Fi-del!" President Fidel Castro and his advisers and followers
endorsed policies intended to maintain the status quo for as long as possible.

Since the party hierarchy last gathered, in 1991, sheer necessity has
forced Castro to seek foreign investment in state companies, allow some
limited self-employment and permit the use of the dollar as a parallel
currency. The party congress approved all of those moves, but balked at
taking further steps that might open up the economy or reduce government

"The state continues having the guiding capacity in directing the economy,
and under any formula, therefore, its interests will be adequately
represented," proclaims the economic policy statement the congress approved.

The document, a draft of which was made available to The New York Times,
also supports "space for the functioning of market mechanisms under state
regulation" and speaks of the need to "avoid monopolistic prices and
unjustifiable profits" that might result from a faster economic opening.

Since returning from a visit to China late in 1995, Castro has spoken
admiringly to visitors about the results of economic changes there and the
prosperity they have generated.

But in his closing address to the congress here, he made it clear that he
opposed privatizing state enterprises, a step ordered by the Chinese party
at its congress last month, or allowing workers who might lose jobs by such
an action to set up businesses of their own.

"We have no reason to create millionaires, to create enormous
inequalities," Castro said. As Marxist-Leninists, he added, "we fight not
to create individual millionaires, but to make the citizenry as a whole
into millionaires."

At a news conference the day before the congress opened, Esteban Lazo
Cardenas, the party secretary for Havana and a member of the Politburo,
said Cuba could not take the same path as China because "conditions are
completely different" here. The Chinese have "an economy based in the
countryside," he said, and "there is also a difference of magnitude" that
permits China more latitude to experiment economically.

"If we take these steps, how can we keep health, education and public
welfare free?" Lazo asked. "That comes out of the profits of state

In addition, he said, China does not have to contend with the hostility of
the United States. While some economic experimentation is worth
considering, he said, "the blockade and the effort to drown us don't permit
that right now."

In Washington, James P. Rubin, the State Department spokesman, said the
tone of the party congress here conveyed "a sense of a certain time warp."
Rubin told reporters who inquired about Castro's 6-hour-43-minute opening
address Wednesday that "no matter how many times you play the same old
movie, it's not going to change the desires and the needs of the people of
the modern world."

Despite growing concerns outside Cuba about a lack of mechanisms to groom
possible successors to Castro, the party proved nearly as cautious on
matters of personnel and leadership as in dealing with the economy.

Though eight people were dropped in the reshaping of the Politburo, the
party's most powerful deliberative body, its ideological composition and
balance of power remain largely unchanged, political analysts here said.

Most of those removed are members of the generation that took power with
Castro in 1959, so-called "historicos" like Vice President Carlos Rafael
Rodriguez, 84, and Osmany Cienfuegos, another longtime associate.

But also stripped of their posts were Nelson Torres, who as minister of
sugar is regarded as responsible for the failure of this year's harvest,
and Jorge Lezcano, party secretary in Havana when the rafter refugee crisis
erupted in 1994.

The six new members include several such technocrats and party bureaucrats.
Jose Luis Sierra, a 40-ish provincial party secretary who was among those
promoted, described the final result as "a mixture of generations." But a
diplomat here noted that the authority of all of the newcomers "derives
directly from Fidel" and predicted they would be followers rather than
innovators, at least initially.

Castro also made a point of reaffirming that his younger brother, Raul, 66,
the minister of defense and the party's longtime No. 2 leader, remains his
designated successor. The continued presence of Raul Castro, whom he
described as his "backup" or "relief pitcher," "gives us great tranquillity
and continuity," he said.

In a somewhat surprising move, the party's Central Committee was reduced
from 225 members to 150. Raul Castro explained the streamlining, which
diplomats said would enhance the power of the Castro brothers, by saying
that membership in the body should be based "not only on representativeness
but skill."

But the younger Castro also expressed concerns about ideological purity. It
was necessary, he said, to "elect a Central Committee that will keep the
revolution immune from ideological viruses" so that what occurred in the
Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the late 1980s would not happen in Cuba.

Copyright 1997 The New York Times Company

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