Seminar on the 2011 Communist Party Congress in Cuba

As part of their Caribbean Seminar Series, the Institute for the Study of the Americas and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies are sponsoring a seminar by Tony Kapcia (Nottingham University), “The 2011 Communist Party Congress in Cuba: Real Turning Point or Simply the Usual Rubber Stamp?” The lecture and discussion will take place on March 2, 2011, at 5:00pm in Room G32, Senate House (South Block, Ground Floor) on Malet Street, London.

Description: Communist Party Congresses in Cuba (as in the pre-1989 Socialist Bloc) have often been dismissed outside Cuba as mere rubber-stamp assemblies, to formalise the leader’s decisions; hence one expects the coming Congress (long delayed since 2002) to be treated in that way. However, although the Congress is likely to legitimise Raúl Castro’s leadership of the Party and also the direction in which he clearly wants Cuba to go, it promises to be a bit more. For four out of the five preceding Congresses (1975, 1986, 1991, 1997), far from rubber-stamping, followed prolonged, and often fierce, periods of debate at different levels, and in turn set the terms for the debates that followed. The years of debate leading up to this Congress, therefore, seem to indicate that the 2011 event may well follow in that tradition, not settling debates but starting new ones. Indeed, this paper argues that we should see the internal arguments of the Party in terms of debates and differing, and competing, discourses, rather than in terms of faction—’reformers’ and ‘hard-liners’—which have always been the terms which our media have applied, usually unhelpfully.

Tony Kapcia is Professor of Latin American History and Director of the Centre for Research on Cuba at the University of Nottingham. He has been researching on modern and contemporary Cuban history since 1971 and has published extensively on different aspects of Cuba. His works include Cuba: Island of Dreams (2000), Havana: The Making of Cuban Culture (2005), and Cuba in Revolution: A History since the Fifties (2008). He is currently co-writing a study of literary culture and politics in Cuba since 1959, arising from a four-year Leverhulme Trust-funded collaborative research project.

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