The Constitution that we today proclaim guarantees the continuity of the Revolution and the irrevocability of our socialism. It synthesizes the aspirations of all those that during the course of more than 150 years have struggled for a free, independent, and sovereign Cuba, with social justice. . . . This Constitution becomes a legacy for new generations of Cubans—Raul Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, April 10, 2019.
During their six decades in power, they have been attentive to the question of the transition of leadership in two senses: transition from individual charismatic leadership to leadership by a vanguard political party; and the passing of leadership to subsequent generations. The transition of leadership in both senses is to considerable extent complete. The State and the Party have been developed as separate institutions with complementary roles. The highest positions in the State are elected by the people in a system of direct and indirect elections; whereas Party membership is self-selected, with leaders elected by members. The State and principle social institutions are in the hands of leaders born after the triumph of the Revolution. The Party remains in the hands of the generation of the Revolution at the highest level, with subsequent generations holding various positions of authority at various levels.
In recent years, the Party has dedicated itself to the development of the new Constitution, with the intention of building a solid statutory foundation for the policies and social changes of the past thirty years, which also would provide a constitutional guide for the future. Based on 150 years of struggle and on the revolutionary practice and theoretical development of the last six decades, the new Constitution can be seen as the final will and testament of the generation of the Revolution.
The new Cuban constitution was proclaimed by Raúl Castro on April 10, 2019, at the Second Extraordinary Session of the Ninth Legislature of the National Assembly of Popular Power.
Miguel Díaz-Canel, since his election as President of the Council of State and Ministers by the National Assembly of Popular Power on April 19, 2018, as been more visible than Raúl at affairs of state and public events. However, Raúl, General Secretary of the Communist Party, was assigned the duty of proclaiming the new constitution, inasmuch as the Party has been the guiding force behind the new constitution.
Cuban revolutionary leaders have created a custom in which political leaders, mass organization leaders, journalists, professionals, and public figures provide pedagogical public discourses, constantly striving to educate the people in historical and social consciousness. In accordance with this custom, Raúl pointed out that the new Constitution is rooted in past Cuban constitutions, and especially important were the constitutions of 1869, 1940, and 1975. The Constitution of the Republic in Arms of April 10, 1869, he explained, proclaimed the independence of Cuba from Spain and the objective of unity on a basis of recognition of the equality of all. During the neocolonial republic, the Constitution of 1940 emerged in the context of an opening established by the international situation of a world struggle against fascism, which enabled the active participation in the Constitutional Assembly of delegates with progressive ideas, including the participation of the first Communist Party of Cuba. The result was a constitution advanced for its time, which included the proclamation of social and economic rights; the rejection of discrimination for reasons of race, color, or sex; a limit of the working day to eight hours; and the prohibition of large-scale agricultural estates. He noted that many of these postulates were not implemented, because the necessary complementary laws were not implemented.
He stressed that the Republic of 1902-1958 was a U.S. neocolony, with Cuban sovereignty subordinated to the interests of the USA. U.S. imperialist intervention in 1898, he observed, robbed victory from the victorious military campaign of the Army of Liberation, preventing a true independence that would have established a progressive and democratic republic. The progressive Constitution of 1940, never implemented, was nullified by the Batista coup d’état of March 10, 1952.
Raúl noted that on February 7, 1959, the Revolutionary Government promulgated the Fundamental Law, which was based on the Constitution of 1940. However, the Revolutionary Government modified the 1940 Constitution by establishing its Council of Ministers as the highest legislative and executive body, and with authority to interpret the constitution. Raul observed that it could not have been done in any other way. It was a choice between, on the one hand, interrupting the revolutionary process in order to concentrate on the making of a new constitution; or on the other hand, proceeding forward in accordance with what was already decided by the leadership with the overwhelming support of the people.
In retrospect, we can see the wisdom of the course of action taken by the Revolutionary Government in 1959. If a constitutional assembly had been convened, many issues would have been debated, but the participants would not have had the experiential basis for their ideas. The revolution was just beginning, as Fidel had proclaimed on January 1. Many experiences lay ahead: the Agrarian Reform Law, and the hostile reaction to it on the part of the U.S. government and the Cuban national bourgeoisie; the nationalizations of U.S. property; the sabotage of production by the Cuban industrial bourgeoisie, and its increasing participation in the counterrevolution; the nationalizations of Cuban large-scale industrial, commercial, and banking enterprises; the organization of mass assemblies, an alternative to the structures of representative democracy; the development of mass organizations, which came to be seen as integral to an alternative concept of popular democracy; and the proclamation of the socialist character of the revolution on the eve of an invasion by Cuban counterrevolutionaries financed and supplied by the U.S. government. All of these experiences of the leadership and the people in forging ahead with the revolutionary process became the basis for reflection on an alternative constitutionality, in which the issues could be debated with greater maturity, established through experience. It was a question of revolutionary practice first, which provided the foundation for an alternative theory and revolutionary constitutionality.
Raúl observed that in 1975, in his report to the First Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, Fidel proclaimed the need to develop a socialist constitution, which reflects the consciousness, convictions, and the social-economic-political transformations of the revolutionary process. The result was the Constitution of 1976, developed with an ample popular consultation and approved overwhelmingly in popular referendum, which reaffirmed the socialist character of the Revolution; provided a constitutional foundation of the rights that had been attained through the revolutionary process; and established an alternative system of popular democracy, based on the experiences of the mass assemblies and mass organizations.
Raúl further explained that developments in recent years in Cuba made necessary a new Constitution, and especially important were new economic policies developed in response to the need to improve production. In 2011, the Sixth Congress of the Party approved Guidelines for the Social and Economic Policy of the Party and the Revolution. The Party led the people in a popular consultation, and presented the modified guidelines to the National Assembly, which approved them. The Seventh Congress of the Party in 2016 developed documents for a Cuban Social and Economic Model of Socialist Development. Recognizing the constitutional implications of the Guidelines and the Model, the Party expressed the need for the development of a new constitution.
On June 2, 2018, the National Assembly approved the establishment of a Constitutional Commission composed 33 deputies of the National Assembly, naming Raúl as chair of the Commission. On July 22, after various sessions of debate, the National Assembly approved a draft of the text for submission to the people. From August 13 to November 15, some 133,681 meetings were held in places of residence, work, and study, in which 1,706,872 commentaries were made (all noted by members of the Constitutional Committee), and 783,174 specific proposals were made; thereby converting the entire people into a constitutional assembly. On the basis of analysis of the popular consultation, the Commission modified nearly 60% of the articles of the first draft. Following an analysis, debate, and further revision of the text, the National Assembly approved a draft for popular referendum. On February 24, some 90.15% of resident citizens voted in the referendum, of which 86.85% voted Yes, 9% voted No, and 4.15% submitted invalid ballots. (For further description of the constitutional process in Cuba, see various posts from January 9, 2019 to February 26, 2019 in this category Cuba Today).
Raúl maintained that the new Constitution assures the continuity of the Cuban Revolution and the irrevocability of socialism. It expresses the aspirations of those who have struggled for 150 years for a sovereign Cuba, characterized by social justice. At the same time, it reflects the new historic circumstances of the Revolution, and it reflects the current aspirations of the people to attain a socialism that is increasingly prosperous, sustainable, inclusive, and participatory. He asserts that as the USA renews its old desire to overthrow the Cuban Revolution through the suffocating of the economy and the creation of shortages, the U.S. administration should understand the unshakable determination of Cuba to defend its sovereign right to decide the future of the nation, without any foreign interference.
The generation of the Revolution, a product of a historic struggle, has fulfilled its duty, to the nation, to the people, to humanity, and to the future.