In fact al Attar is an avid defender of the “Single Party” state-in particular Fidel Castro’s Cuba.
He believes that the West has a lot to learn from the Cuban system.
Here’s what Mohsen al Attar has to say about Cuba’s “one party” system;
From radical Canadian website The Warehouse
Cubans won their independence in 1959. Without wasting a breath, they began the arduous task of rebuilding their society under the banners of social equality and human solidarity. One of their first acts was to launch a national literacy campaign. Over 100,000 Cubans, mostly high school students, volunteered to relocate to the countryside to teach peasants and labourers to read and write. In just one year, illiteracy was reduced from 42% to 4% as over a million people were taught to read.
The literacy campaign quickly morphed into a public education campaign. The state has fully subsidised all levels of education since the Revolution – a policy maintained even today.
Next, Cubans tackled the corrupt political institutions established during the colonial era to disenfranchise the masses. To avoid the divisive power of party politics, they developed a single-party system. Slammed as a sham of democracy by Western officials, this framework focuses not on party power but on Poder Popular or People’s Power.
Poder Popular transformed the system of representative government by giving each citizen the right to select, elect, and be elected to the municipal, provincial, and national assemblies. By vesting authority to nominate and elect representatives with the people, the reformed political system empowered all citizens to identify and support candidates of their choosing.
This system means that most Cuban officials are not career politicians but genuine representatives of the people. In fact, almost half of the representatives in Cuba’s national assembly are not even members of the Communist Party (the only party) but independents, a proportion that appears to mimic the national climate. This staggering number of independents is possible for Cuban candidates, unlike in Western democracies, need neither party support nor donor largesse to run for office.
The single-party system had the immediate effect of stamping out petty and fictitious party rivalries. In Canada for instance, the Liberal party has been instrumental in keeping its rival, the Conservative party, in power, repeatedly voting in favour of Conservative sponsored bills. Stephane Dion may wax poetically about the repugnancy of Stephen Harper’s policies but his party’s support of its opponent’s agenda speaks volumes about the affinity between the supposed rivals. Similar politics exist in the US and the UK where the illusion of rivalry may boil our blood but, ultimately, disempowers us through manufactured division and diversion.
Another benefit of the single-party system was the curtailment of the power of oligopolies and corporations in the political process. No longer could the corporate class lavish wealth upon candidates for electoral campaigns, effectively undermining their ability to shape public policy in their favour. Indeed, being members of either the same party or no party at all means that officials are not bound by party diktat – drafted by corporate lobbies – and can thus vote for their constituents and with their consciences.
Though Westerners casually describe the Cuban system as dictatorial, Cubans have created a democracy with more popular participation, wider social representation, and greater institutional accountability than what many Westerners experience. Voter turnout figures confirm this. As voter turnout in Canada and the US hovers at 60% and 50% respectively, since 1976, 95% of registered Cuban voters have gone to the ballots. Combined with Poder Popular, this level of participation helps explain the diversity of elected officials, who range from lawyers and economists to nurses and engineers, and are comprised of 42% women and 36% of black or mixed ethnicities.
Following political reform, Cubans implemented land reform to break up the oligopolistic power of wealthy landlords. A limit was placed on the amount of land any one person could own and compensation provided to the few affected (including the Castro family!). Land recovered was distributed to landless peasants or parcelled into a series of community-controlled cooperatives. In three years, the number of land-owning peasants quintupled from 40,000 to 200,000.
By distributing land and nurturing feelings of ownership and belonging, Cubans were able to increase food production to unprecedented levels and strengthen communal solidarity. Until today, these measures ensure that every citizen has adequate shelter, nourishment, and healthcare. We may criticise Cuba for its civil rights record – sometimes justifiably – but we must applaud the nation’s commitment to social equity.
Cuba’s commitment to social and economic justice extends far beyond its borders. During the American war against Vietnam, Cuba sent food and blood supplies and trained workers to assist the suffering Vietnamese. In 1988, Cuban troops in Angola helped to defeat the colonial forces of the US and South Africa. This was a catalyst for the collapse of apartheid, a fact recognised by Nelson Mandela who thanked Cubans declaring “you made this possible.” Finally, with more doctors per capita than any other country (in the world), Cuba sends tens of thousands of doctors every year to the poorest barrios in Latin America, Africa, and Asia to provide free medical care.
The airtight safety net Cubans enjoy and their solidarity with the world’s poorest is evidence of the strength of a collaborationist culture. Though Western political discourse surrounding Cuba ignores these advantages, a different picture exists outside the West as Third World nations – Venezuela, Bolivia, Paraguay, Angola, and Tanzania – see this equitable model as a goal to strive for.
First World countries, too, have much to learn from Cuba. Despite scarce resources, principles of social equality and human solidarity have helped propel the tiny island to the front of the Human Development Index where the compassion of community trumps the self-interest of the market. Such are the benefits of single-party democracy when practiced by a highly educated and politically active populace.
Regrettably, in the West, these values only elicit condemnation and this despite the catastrophes – human and financial – that advanced capitalism has produced globally (lest we disregard the banking, insurance, and financial meltdowns of 2008).
Neoliberalism has failed. Best we accept this and look for alternatives. Cuba is a good place to start.
Congratulations Kiwis-you’re paying this man’s salary.