Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Democracy for Cubans and Americans

Last May our President said in Miami that the purpose of his policy towards Cuba is to bring democracy to the Cuban people. He said he would consider ending the embargo and our other attempts to isolate Cuba if Cubans would hold free and fair elections with multiparty candidates and comply with several other political conditions he requires. His interest in fair elections and democracy for Cubans is commendable, but if he is also interested in these benefits for Americans, it might be useful for him to compare how the differing political systems functioned in the recent elections (November 5, 2002, US House of Representatives and January 19, 2003, Cuba National Assembly.)

In both countries, voting is by secret ballot, voluntary, and open to all adult citizens. In US we have two so-called political parties, both funded primarily by increasingly centralized and powerful commercial enterprise. No longer value based, they function primarily as fundraisers and accounting firms for the candidates, who are elected on the basis of their celebrity, incumbency and financial backing – which allows them access to the mass media (funded by the same business enterprise) conditioned on their thinking and talking within the ever narrowing “mainstream.” The formation of alternative, value-based parties is prevented by excluding them from the mass media and public debates.

For Cubans the last century was a long struggle for nationhood and national dignity. They had extensive experience with the multiparty system under US tutelage in the first part of the century, when they were a virtual US plantation (by the 1950’s over 75% of Cuban economic production property was owned or controlled by US commercial interests). They have learned from bitter experience that their continued liberation depends entirely on their national unity whereas political division makes them vulnerable to manipulation and economic domination by US businesses and their former rulers who now live in US as part of the Cuban-American community. They have therefore forged a non-partisan political system which preserves their sovereignty and independence with institutions which seek to achieve democracy by participatory consensus rather than class warfare. Electoral parties in our sense are not involved in Cuban politics. The Cuban Communist Party (PCC) is not involved in elections, rather it’s an organization of activists (about 15% of adults are members) which has the constitutional mandate to promote social consciousness and the long-term revolutionary goals for the whole nation. The Cuban constitution was approved in 1976 by 97% of voters out of more than 90% eligible, amended significantly in 1992 by more than 2/3 of an elected National Assembly as required, and made irrevocable by a vote of eight million eligibles (more than 4/5 of the adult population) in June, 2002.

The US House is supposedly our democratic legislative body with elections every two years ? originally intended to ensure that our 435 “representatives” (career politicians) would be responsive to the people who elect them. Their public media-driven campaigns of self-promotion have become incredibly expensive and lengthy, if not continuous. Because the primary factors involved in their decision-making are personal ? obtaining and retaining their offices (their careers bring them power and wealth) – the American people have discovered that they are in reality representing the powerful private interests which fund them rather than their constituents, and that voting for major party candidates does not remedy the situation.

In last November’s US House elections, over 90% of the seats were uncontested or not seriously contested and overall about 39% of those eligible voted, producing another landslide for incumbents. The so-called parties had in the state legislatures in previous years gerrymandered the US congressional districts to make most of the seats virtual lifetime appointments, thereby promoting responsiveness to private rather than public interests. Our members of Congress have become experts in obtaining and retaining their seats by avoiding clear-cut votes on fundamental or controversial issues and disguising their real positions regarding these matters. As a result these issues never get finally decided and we don’t move on. For example instead of declarations of war (for which we could hold them accountable) we get vague resolutions. What and when questions are brought up for voting or decision, and how these are framed, are matters determined by a very few powerful men called party “leaders.” We keep getting the same issues reargued year after year with no final decision, like income tax change, campaign finance, abortion rights, gun control, social security, Medicare coverage for medicine, Cuba embargo, etc., and we often find that members have voted neither way or both ways on various aspects of these complex matters so that we can’t determine where they really stand. Our Congress has become essentially unresponsive and dysfunctional, which serves only the interests of the businesses which fund it.

The Cuban National Assembly deals with legislative and constitutional matters, has 601 members who serve for five years, up to 50% are chosen from previously elected municipal delegates (elected locally for 2 _ year terms) and the rest are chosen by national candidate commissions (from which PCC is excluded) in a process which takes many months and involves consultations with and groups representing millions of people, such as the trade unions, the women’s federation, the small farmers unions, the student federations, the teachers and professional, health care and other mass organizations. The idea is to obtain a slate of national representatives who are a “mirror of the nation.” All seats in the Assembly must be contested (usually there are several candidates) and to be elected a candidate must receive at least 50% of the vote.

?

There is no campaigning in Cuba, the candidates do not promote themselves and money is not a factor in elections. Their biographies, including photos, education, work experience and other matters are posted conspicuously throughout their permanent, unchanging residential districts for months before the elections and details are supplied by the election commissions. They usually serve only one term, most of them have previously been elected by constituents who know them personally or by reputation as to truly represent the people and their common interest. They are not career politicians ? they have other jobs, they must have frequent meetings with constituents (called “accountability sessions”) and they are subject to recall at all times. Where expert information is necessary, it is supplied by special commission and proposed legislation (such as the recent imposition of an income tax) is voted on, up or down, in order of presentation. The peoples’ representatives make all the legislative decisions, and once the decisions are made, they move on to new matters.

In the elections held January 19, 2003 uover 93% of eligible Cubans voted, electing a National Assembly which truly and accountably represents their common interest.

More articles by:
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
For Popular Sovereignty, Beyond Absurdity
Nick Pemberton
The Colonial Pantsuit: What We Didn’t Want to Know About Africa
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Summer of No Return
Jeff Halper
Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Incident: Trump’s Special Relationship With the Saudi Monarchy
Andrew Levine
Democrats: Boost, Knock, Enthuse
Barbara Kantz
The Deportation Crisis: Report From Long Island
Doug Johnson
Nate Silver and 538’s Measurable 3.5% Democratic Bias and the 2018 House Race
Gwen Carr
This Stops Today: Seeking Justice for My Son Eric Garner
Robert Hunziker
Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!
Arshad Khan
Is There Hope on a World Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius?
David Rosen
Packing the Supreme Court in the 21stCentury
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Threats of Death and Destruction
Joel A. Harrison
The Case for a Non-Profit Single-Payer Healthcare System
Ramzy Baroud
That Single Line of Blood: Nassir al-Mosabeh and Mohammed al-Durrah
Zhivko Illeieff
Addiction and Microtargeting: How “Social” Networks Expose us to Manipulation
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
What is Truth?
Michael Doliner
Were the Constitution and the Bill of Rights a Mistake?
Victor Grossman
Cassandra Calls
Ralph E. Shaffer
Could Kavanaugh’s Confirmation Hearing Ended Differently?
Vanessa Cid
Our Everyday Family Separations
Walaa Al Ghussein
The Risks of Being a Journalist in Gaza
Ron Jacobs
Betrayal and Treachery—The Extremism of Moderates
James Munson
Identity Politics and the Ruling Class
P. Sainath
The Floods of Kerala: the Bank That Went Under…Almost
Ariel Dorfman
How We Roasted Donald Duck, Disney’s Agent of Imperialism
Joe Emersberger
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno’s Assault on Human Rights and Judicial Independence
Ed Meek
White Victimhood: Brett Kavanaugh and the New GOP Brand
Andrew McLean, MD
A Call for “Open Space”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail