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Communist Party of Cuba
The original Communist Party of Cuba was formed in the 1920s and was a member of the Comintern. It was later renamed the People's Socialist Party for electoral reasons. Its policy was dictated from Moscow, and supported Batista in whose government it had Ministers Without Portfolio. The People's Socialist Party was initially critical of Castro.
In July 1961, two years after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations (ORI) was formed by the merger of Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement, the People's Socialist Party led by Blas Roca and the Revolutionary Directory March 13th led by Faure Chomón . On March 26, 1962 the ORI became the United Party of the Cuban Socialist Revolution (PURSC) which, in turn, became the Communist Party of Cuba on October 3, 1965. The Communist party remains the only legal political party in Cuba.
For the first ten years of its formal existence, the Communist Party was relatively inactive outside of the Politburo. The 100 person Central Committee rarely met and it was ten years after its founding that the first regular Party Congress was held. In 1969, membership of the party was only 55,000 or 0.6% of the population making the CPC the smallest ruling Communist party in the world. In the 1970s the party's apparatus began to develop. By the time of the first Party Congress in 1975 the party had grown to just over 200,000 members, the Central Committee was meeting regularly and the organisational apparatus giving the party the leading role in society that ruling Communist parties generally hold. By 1980 the party had grown to over 430,000 members and grew further to 520,000 by 1985. Apparatuses of the party had grown to ensure that its leading cadres were appointed to key government positions throughout the bureaucracy.
The crisis created by the collapse of the Soviet bloc led to the Fourth Party Congress in 1991 being one of unprecedented openness and debate as the leadership tried to create a wide public consensus to respond to the "Special Period". Three million people engaged in pre-Congress debate and discussions on issues such as political structure and economic policy. The 1991 Congress redefined the party as "the party of the Cuban nation" rather than the "party of the working class". The prohibition on religious believers joining the party was lifted. As well, José Martí was elevated to the level of Karl Marx and Lenin in the party's ideological pantheon.
Much of the debate resulted from an internal struggle between advocates of a Cuban perestroika, i.e. the use of market mechanisms and the liberalisation of strictures on free speech and dissent and others who argued that speedy reforms would undercut the unity of the nation and the party's political dominance and possibly lead to the government's collapse as had happened to Communist states in Eastern Europe. The outcome was political reforms which fell far short of reform demands to permit candidates to campaign for office on competing programs. Economically, however, some modest market reforms were introduced, particularly in agriculture, in an effort to reverse the country's economic decline after the cessation of aid and trade subsidies from the USSR. Increased tensions between the US and Cuba also gave the conservatives the upper hand in the mid-1990s and the government responded more and more harshly to dissident groups.
By the time of the Fifth Party Congress in 1997, political liberalisation was no longer on the agenda. The economic resolution debated at the conference called for the expansion of tourism in order to bring in more hard currency but did not call for economic reforms while the political resolution opposed any political liberalization and constituted a defence of the one party system.
The Communist Party of Cuba held its first Party Congress in 1975 and has had additional congresses in 1980, 1986, 1991 and 1997. The leading bodies of the party were the Politburo and the Secretariat until 1991 when the two bodies were merged into an expanded Politburo with over twenty members.There is also a Central Committee which meets between party congresses. At the Fifth Party Congress the size of the Central Committee was reduced to 150 members from the previous membership of 225. Fidel Castro has been the party's First Secretary (or leader) since its inception and Raúl Castro is the party's Second Secretary.
The party had a membership of over 780,000 when the Fifth Party Congress was held in 1997. 32.1% of the membership are classifed as workers while 13.8% are "professionals and technicians", 8.2% teachers and professors and 7.5% are "service workers".
The Communist Party of Cuba has a youth wing, the Unión de Jóvenes Comunistas (Union of Young Communists) modelled on the Komsomol that operated in the Soviet Union. It also has a children's group called the Young Pioneers.
Compared to other ruling Communist parties such as the Communist Party of Vietnam, the Communist Party of China and the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, the Communist Party of Cuba retains a stricter adherence to the tradition of Marxism-Leninism and the traditional Soviet model. Cuba has avoided the severe repression of the old Communist governments in the USSR and eastern Europe though free speech is limited and dissidents are persecuted. Largely absent has been the development of a personality cult.
The Cuban party is more committed to the concept of socialism than other ruling parties and has been more hesitant in engaging in market reforms though it has been forced to accept some capitalist measures in its economy due to the collapse of the USSR and the resultant loss of Soviet economic subsidies. The Communist Party of Cuba has had a very internationalist outlook in favour of supporting revolutions abroad and was active in assisting the FMLN in El Salvador, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and Maurice Bishop's New Jewel Movement in Grenada in the 1980s. It has been forced to retreat from this policy due to growing American hegemony in Latin America and the halt of military aid from the Soviet Union. However, the party continues a commitment to internationalism by supporting a policy of sending thousands of Cuban doctors on humanitarian missions throughout the developing world. More recently the party has sought to support left wing leaders such as Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela in hopes of creating an anti-U.S. bloc.
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