g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Sun Apr 21 19:59:08 MDT 1996
I want to begin the process of replying to Louis' posts on Nicaragua. He
sent three major ones deal with the class composition of nicaragua, the
agricultural reforms of the Sandinistas and the process of the counter-
These were quality posts- erudite, committed and well argued. I have read
and re-read them and used them for my thesis chapter on the Australian David
Bradbury's film Nicaragua: No Pasaran (1984). Because of Louis' input I
have been able to argue in a way that makes me look smarter than the
average bear that Bradbury does not give us the kind of information we need
to evaluate the prospects and the tactics of the Sandinistas.
What is it then that I wsh to take issue here with Louis' arguments. What
divides us? I have to confess that I am not as clear here as I should be.
One the one hand I am overwhelmingly sympathetic to the Sandinistas.
Reading Tomas Borge's great speech on Mayday 1982 was a very emotional
experience for me. By contrast working through the contributions to the US
"Foreign Affairs" Journal fill me with the greatest of rage.
Despite this some doubts remain and I will try and clarify these.
Let us begin with the characterisation of the Sandinista revolution. What
kind of revolution was it? Harris & Vilas argue that it was not socialist.
Nor was it bourgeois.
"It clearly is a popular revolution that, while not intent upon eliminating
the bourgeoisie, has severely undrmined an important part of this class,
and served the broad interests of the popular classes- the peasantry, the
artisans, the workers, the semi-proletariat and fractions of the petty
bourgeoisie. the incorporation of certain members of the bourgeoisie into
the revolutionary government has taken place on an individual basis, not as
representatives of their class, and always as subordinated elements to the
revolutionary popular block of forces." (H&V. Nicaragua:Revolution Under
Now for this post I want to insist that there can only be two kinds of
revolutions in our epoch. They can either be bourgeois or socialist. Now I
know that an outbreak of dogmatism on this list makes such statements at
best unpopular. But clarity is not dogma. Well not necesarily so.
So my position is that there are only two destinations on the revolutionary
track -the bourgeois stopover or the socialist station. Let me hasten to
add here that while there are only two possibilites in terms of destination,
there are many ways of travelling. How many we do not know.
Much depends on the local circumstance. But we should not do as the
postmodernists have done and fetishize the local. This is still the time of
capitalism and we are still struggling to build socialism. There is no
So I would say to the Sandinistas of course you may have to do this and that
to achieve socialism. In real life compromise is *always* necessary. But
do not confuse tactics for strategy. You might need to have a bourgeois in
the government but he is there only in the sense that Machiavelli (& the
Godfather) advised. Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.
And above all I would enjoin that while compromises and retreats and even
defeats may happen. How we retreat and how we lose are always important.
Ee should never adapt the rhetoric of the captialst and thus re-enforce his
I will conclude with a perfect example of what not to do. It is from Louis'
post of the 25.3.96 and it is by Carlos Chamorro editor of barricada.
"The new economic policy has invalidated a series of concepts that for years
represented..a road map towards...the Revolution's economic agenda...'Social
control', 'secure channels', price controls', 'government subsidy',
'preferential prices for the peasantry' etc are banners of a bygone era that
has been left behind by reality.
This reads exactly like the speech that James Callaghan made to a British
Labour Party conference when he announced the end of Keynesian economics.
Instead of explaining and apologising for the retreat it is now called the
"new reality". A new reality which is very much like the old captialist
In my next post I will take up the question of religion the third element of
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