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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

What is the founding date of the Communist Party of Cuba?

The symbolism of the date on which the socialist character of the Revolution was proclaimed: those who fought in the Bay of Pigs already did so under the banners of socialism.

Fidel proclaims the socialist character of the Revolution, April 16, 1961 - Photo: Raul Corrales


By Enrique Villuendas Calleyro (translated from the Spanish):


There are doubts, even among militants, about the date of the founding of the Communist Party of Cuba. August 16, 1925? April 16, 1961? October 3, 1965? It is worth clarifying the issue.


On August 16, 1925, the first Communist Party of Cuba was constituted, in a place that existed where the Hubert de Blanck Theater is located today, in Havana. Less than 20 delegates and guests from four groups of communists were present. Among its founders, Carlos Baliño López, who accompanied José Martí in the founding of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, and Julio Antonio Mella, who had such an impact on his generation and those that followed, are always remembered in a special way.


That Party was harshly persecuted. The elected secretary general (José Miguel Pérez) was deported, under the pretext of being Spanish. Several of its members (including Baliño, who died the following year) were arrested. Most of the organization's existence was underground or semi-clandestine. It changed its name several times, to evade persecution and imposed prohibitions.


Its members enjoyed high prestige for their self-denial, honesty and dedication to the cause. Working-class martyrs like Jesús Menéndez and Aracelio Iglesias were communists. So were union leaders such as Lázaro Peña, or intellectuals of the caliber of Juan Marinello and Carlos Rafael Rodríguez. With their propaganda (the radio station Mil Diez, the newspaper Hoy, and the sale or distribution of books and pamphlets) they sowed ideas (1).


One of the historical merits of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz was to understand that that Party, no matter how just its struggle, could not lead a revolution that would transform the prevailing system: years of anti-communist propaganda had managed to instill prejudices in broad sectors of the population that isolated it politically.


That is why Fidel, after Batista's devious coup d'état, dedicated himself to constituting a new organization, which ended up being the July 26 Revolutionary Movement, and played the main role in the overthrow of the tyranny.


After the triumph of January 1, 1959, in the midst of an acute class struggle and the early confrontation with the efforts of Yankee imperialism to overthrow the nascent Revolution, Fidel dedicated himself to achieving unity among the three revolutionary forces that had fought the dictatorship: the Popular Socialist Party (PSP, the name assumed at that time by the former Communist Party), the March 13 Revolutionary Directorate and the July 26 Revolutionary Movement.


It was a gradual, patient process that led to the constitution of the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations (ORI). There was no formal act for it, nor did it happen in a day: the ORI were the result of the united will of the main leaders of the Revolution, led by Fidel, in the very heat of the struggle.


In March 1962, the Commander-in-Chief denounced the deviations of sectarianism that had permeated the work of the ORI. From then on, a process of building the Party from the base began, using a method that gave a primary role to the masses, original and unprecedented in the international communist movement, choosing exemplary workers from among the organization to be part of it. It was also carried out in the armed forces. The organization took the name of the United Party of the Socialist Revolution of Cuba (PURSC).


Between September 30 and October 3, 1965, important meetings took place with leaders of the PURSC in the provinces, regions and grassroots organizations. On the 1st the Central Committee and the Political Bureau of the organization were officially constituted, which were presented on the 3rd. On that date, the merger of the newspapers Hoy and Revolución into a new newspaper, Granma, which would be its official organ, was announced, and Fidel read Che's farewell letter. In addition, on October 3, 1965, the change of the name of the Party was approved, by acclamation, to show, as Fidel said, "not what we were yesterday, but what we are today and what we will be tomorrow": the Communist Party of Cuba.


Fidel summed it up years later: "This Party is the fruit of the Revolution itself. The Revolution brought the Party into the world, and now the Party carries forward the Revolution." (2)


Should October 3, 1965, then be identified as the date of the founding of the Party? At first, this was assumed by the Secretariat of the Central Committee: on February 17, 1973, it agreed to consider "the date of October 3, 1965 as the official date of foundation of the PCC" (3). This was undoubtedly influenced by the fact that it took its current name from that moment on.


A part of the Party's membership had belonged to the organizations that fought the dictatorship. The PSP dated from 1925, the others were from the 1950s. Since the PCC was the result of its merger, what date should be taken as the seniority of belonging to the Party? Who could be considered its founders? The Central Preparatory Commission of the First Congress of the PCC analyzed the issue on November 11, 1975.


The minutes of that meeting show that "the question of the date to be adopted as the date of the formation of our Party was examined, and among the proposals made it was accepted by all that it was that of April 16, 1961, the day on which the socialist character of our Revolution was proclaimed." (4)


From that historic day, the seniority of the founders in the Party began to be counted. At the First Congress, it was endorsed in the Statutes that the militant's file should reflect when they had joined the PSP, the M-26-7 or the Directory, as the case may be (5).


On February 6, 1981, the Secretariat of the Central Committee again addressed the issue of the founding date of the Party. There was the contradiction that the founders of the Party were considered to have seniority as members of the PCC as of April 16, 1961, but the agreement of the Secretariat (of the aforementioned meeting of 1973) had set the official date of the foundation of the organization on October 3, 1965.


This contradiction was pointed out by Fidel at the meeting of February 6, 1981: it could not be that the militants had more seniority than the organization to which they belonged. He recalled that, even before April 1961, "there was the Party in fact organized, a unified leadership." And the previous agreement of the Secretariat was annulled, agreeing to "approve April 16, 1961 as the official date of foundation of the Communist Party of Cuba" (6).


In this way, the symbolism of the date on which the socialist character of the Revolution was proclaimed was ratified: those who fought in Girón already did so under the banners of socialism.


Fidel referred to the issue on multiple occasions, and reflected it in the Central Report to the First Congress of the Party: "A process of integration in the rank and file and in the leadership had already begun before, but after the definitions of April 16 and the glorious victory of the Bay of Pigs, our Party was in fact born in the close unity of all revolutionaries and the working people. cemented by the heroism of our working class, which fought and shed its generous blood in defense of the fatherland and socialism" (7).


On April 16, modest tributes to Party cadres and workers are held throughout the country. The last three Party Congresses began on that very day. It is a date that communist militants make their own. We have plenty of reasons for this: the Party continues to be the soul of the Cuban Revolution (8).


Dating:


(1) A thorough investigation on the subject is the book The First Communist Party of Cuba. Their tactics and strategies. 1925-1935 (Editorial Oriente, 2005), by Angelina Rojas Blaquier.

(2) Speech at the Balance Assembly of the PCC in the province of Havana, March 20, 1974.

(3) Communication from Jesús Montané Oropesa to the Secretariat, November 15, 1980. Central Archive of the PCC.

(4) Minutes of the meeting of 11 November 1975 of the Central Preparatory Commission for the First Congress. Central Archive of the PCC.

(5) Article 13: "The date of entry into any of the revolutionary organizations that participated in the formation of the Communist Party of Cuba is recorded in the militant's personal party file." Statutes of the PCC. First Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba. Memoirs.

(6) PCC Central Archive. Photocopy of the agreement adopted.

(7) Central Report to the First Congress. Proceedings of the Congress.

(8) A very complete investigation of the history of the Party is the book Alma de la nación cubana, by Elvis R. Rodríguez Naranjo and Enrique M. Navarro Agüero (Casa Editorial Verde Olivo, 2014).


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