Hugh Rodwell m-14970 at
Fri May 3 09:45:07 MDT 1996

There's an interesting exchange going on between Jon, Jim and Louis.

Jon wrote:

>  Seriously, though, the above quote is the essence of what we are talking
>about. It is an assessment of the situation on the ground in 1987 which
>particularly in light of subsequent events, just doesn't stand up very well.
>  Nicaragua in 1987 was not like Cuba after the Bay of Pigs. That invasion was
>over quickly, defeated in a knockout punch. If the Sandinistas had been able
>to do that to the contras at the beginning, then backslid, I could go along
>with your analysis. Remember the Thrilla in Manilia? Could Muhammad Ali have
>come out immediately after the 15th round with Joe Frazier and gone another 15
>with George Foreman?
>  Another example might be the post Civil War period in the US. The complete
>emancipation of the slaves and democratic reconstruction of the South failed,
>in large part, due to the exhaustion of the most progressive elements of the
>victorius North. After a while, they just didn't want to hear about
>Reconstruction. The country was bled dry, and it took another hundred years to
>complete the democratic tasks in the South.
>  Anyway, Louis made the case for the objective situation, and there is no
>need to go over it again.

Jon could have added the situation in the young Soviet Union in the early
twenties. If he had done this, it would have focused more on the *initial
preconditions* for developments in Nicaragua.

There are two main points I want to make here.

One is that the question of exhaustion is qualitative. After the civil wars
the Soviet Union was 'exhausted' in the sense that a great part of 'the
most progressive elements' had given their lives in the wars. But remember
that the Soviet peasants and workers were far from being exhausted in 1917,
even after three years of imperialist war. They were sick to death of
fighting for the Tsar and his hangers-on, and deserted his armies -- but
after the revolution, with the land their own and the state their own,
these same workers and peasants picked up their abandoned arms and returned
to war for another couple of years. And no one was in a position to force
them if they didn't want to -- they did it voluntarily.

Where Nicaragua is concerned we've got to look at the question of what
exactly they were fighting to defend. And since the land was not
collectivized, and the state wasn't transformed into a workers' state, they
were not fighting for their own interests in the same way as was the case
in the young Soviet Union. This was demoralizing and amplified any
objectively existing 'exhaustion'.

The second point is the related one of what the Sandinistas could have done
at the outset to make the struggle for an independent Nicaragua easier than
it turned out to be. Jim is clear enough on this. Thorough-going land
reform based on general expropriation of the latifundistas, and production
(such as there was) run on the basis of worker and peasant control and
participation through free unions and other workers' and peasants'

Another very important factor was the need for more pressure on Cuba and
the Soviet Union (for starters) for economic and military aid and political
backing against imperialist aggression. Given the enormous moral support
>from workers and progressive groups internationally (some of which
translated into material help), even for the limited actions taken by the
Sandinistas, a much firmer socialist, anti-imperialist stance would have
been possible and in fact a better strategic option right at the outset, as
it would have stirred even greater support -- and it would have either
shamed Cuba and the Soviet Union into helping the anti-imperialist war of
the Nicaraguan people (instead of preparing its defeat), or forced them
into *open* opposition to a popular, socialist war of liberation.

At the end of his piece, Jon goes a bit overboard when he compares Louis to
George Orwell:

>  I am beginning to realize who Lou reminds me of, one of my early favorites,
>George Orwell. He has the same ear for the hackneyed phrase, the party line
>cliche. This it makes it tough for old sods like us. You really have to go
>over what you write, before you give him a go at it.
> And taking him on on Nicaragua is like debating Orwell on Spain.

Louis is certainly his own master, but he doesn't have Orwell's ability to
see the individual in the broader perspectives he occasionally uses. Also,
Louis presumably has some feeling for the underdog, but he keeps it well
hidden. And Orwell had a sense of decency and balance in everything he
wrote. As for Orwell on Spain -- and perhaps we should devote more time to
Spain than we have -- well, when Louis gives us something like Homage to
Catalonia relating to Nicaragua, then I might concede this point to Jon.
Not before. In fact, if comparisons have to be made, then I think a film
like Land and Freedom could be based on the experiences of the Simon
Bolivar Brigades and demonstrate very clearly how the ultimate defeat of
the Nicaraguan revolution was being prepared by the non-revolutionary
policies of the Sandinistas right from the day of victory against the
Somoza dictatorship.



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