From Nestor

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Wed Jan 26 01:37:41 MST 2000


    Perhaps our differences are not as great as I thought.

    On the Miskitu, I wanted to add a couple of points that in re-reading
the thing I wrote could lead to misunderstandings.

    The reason the FSLN moved the Miskitus from the Río Coco was a National
Guard plan to stage a "red Christmas" among the settlements, which are very
difficult to defend or re-enforce as the river in that zone is the
(theoretical) border with Honduras and there is only one dirt road, often
impassable after a heavy rain, that leads from the "pacific" (bulk) of
Nicaragua to this region. Obviously it would have been easy for the contra
to prevent movement on this road, including by mining it, digging it up and
attacking convoys with mortar fire from nearby hills. Keeping the road open
would have required a tremendous effort.

    What I presented was how the action was viewed by the Miskitus --
especially due to the lack of sensitivity to their own tradition and customs
displayed by the FSLNers in how the new settlements were organized and run.
The *intention*  was to take the Miskitus out of harm's way. The *effect*
was that many felt like they'd been put in concentration camps. With a
population basically used to doing its own thing quite independently from
any central authority, this was intolerable.

    When I say later the policy went in the direction of "genocide" I do not
at all mean that was an FSLN intention. But the fact is the FSLN got trapped
into a war against the best of the Miskitu youth. In the Barricada articles
i cite from memory about calling the dead enemies "beasts" and so on,
Barricada and the FSLN never identified these people as Miskitus. Indeed,
the FSLN tried to keep secret the actual composition of the contra force,
describing them as somocistas and former national guardsmen. Also, while I
do not know directly about those skirmishes, everything I do know about
information I was able to double check while I was in Nicaragua is that the
enemy casualties reported in Barricada were most often unrealistically high.

    Finally, you say that the FSLN gave the autonomy on condition that they
fought the common enemy, imperialism. It's actually a little more
complicated. It didn't take long for the Miskitus to figure out they were
being used as cannon fodder by the contra. Some bands began operating
semi-autonomously, just defending their own turf -- against the FSLN and the
Bermudez-led contras. Apparently, some local FSLN commander came to a modus
vivendi with one or a couple of these bands, and that got the ball rolling.
The beauty of the way the thing was finally structured is that, in reality,
the Miskitus didn't have a choice but to defend themselves against the
contra or have their food supplies stolen and their young men shanghaied.

    By the way, just to emphasize that what the FSLN achieved was solely a
neutralization of the contra-Miskitu alliance, at the time the autonomy
agreement was signed, I had a chance to talk to one of the Comandantes about
why they had ceded so much authority. He said they had no choice. If the
FSLN didn't give it all to the autonomy militias (i.e., the armed Miskitu
bands), they would not have defended it. He said the  FSLN had just four
Miskitu militants (out of a total population of 100,000, if I remember

    If somehow the FSLN had managed to arrive at this sort of position by
the time the contra started to plan its attack on the Miskitus, there would
have been no need for a mass evacuation, (although there were isolated
hamlets that would require careful thought), and it would have been very
difficult for the contra to get away with much (for one thing, logistics out
there are a nightmare).

* * *

    You are quite right on Ecuador, that the indigenous question and the
peasant question are inextricably intertwined. I think I posted the accounts
of the leaders of the Indian movement and how they had been betrayed by the
generals. This inability to constitute themselves as an independent national
political force is a hallmark of these movements. I would be very careful,
however, before simply liquidating the indian question into the agrarian

    On fragmentation, the province that Guayaquil is in, which apparently is
relatively wealthy, somehow got itself the right to vote on a special
"fiscally autonomous" status. The vote was held last Sunday and I've only
seen two articles on it from which it is very hard to tell anything, but it
doesn't "smell" good.

*   *   *

    On your overall theses of a structural need to fragment. There are, I
believe, countervailing pressures, both economic and political.
Economically, the fragmentation of markets is a HUGE pain in the behind for
the capitalists. Politically, imperialism still needs states that are strong
enough to deal with their own workers and peasants. Absolute size is not the
main criterion here, but what is very convenient is that these states be
shot through with ethnic and racial divisions. Moreover, it is dangerous to
destabilize third world regimes (although RIGHT NOW, in their triumphalist
euphoria, the imperialists may well be underestimating this factor).


----- Original Message -----
From: "Jose G. Perez" <jgperez at>
To: "Marxism List" <marxism at>
Sent: Tuesday, January 25, 2000 5:06 AM
Subject: From Nestor

> I received the following from Nestor, askling me to forward it to the
> which I do with pleasure.
> The delay has been that I had not electricity since Sat, night due to the
> Great Atlanta Ice Storm of 2000.
> José
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Néstor M. Gorojovsky" <gorojovsky at>
> To: "Jose G. Perez" <jgperez at>
> Sent: Sunday, January 23, 2000 9:45 AM
> Querido José, dado que estoy con problemas para conectarme con
> Marxism, te pido que me hagas el favor de reenviar esto. Es una
> réplica a tu planteo (así que "rant", eh?), pero estoy seguro de que
> puedo contar con tu camaradería. Noblesse oblige. Gracias, desde ya.
> En relación a Re: MODERATOR'S NOTE,
> el 22 Jan 00, a las 22:56, Jose G. Perez dijo:
> > >>Is the United States now following a consistent policy of
> > >>Balkanization
> > in the Third World rather than a policy of supporting strong regimes
> > (e.g., Indonesia) during the Cold War?<<
> >
> > Carrol,
> >
> >     I think you've hit the nail right on the head on what is behind
> >     the
> > position taken by Nestor and others, which he very clearly expressed
> > here in his rant against "rump" groups pretending to be nations. I
> > simply do not buy this general idea of over-arching imperialist
> > super-strategic approaches, but even if I did, and imperialism, this
> > late in the game, tried to change its spots and encourage national
> > movements by nations and nationalities forged through decades and
> > centuries of  oppression, I would not for a minute consider changing
> > my stance towards oppressed peoples. I am firmly convinced, not from
> > books, but from what I have seen with my own eyes and lived through,
> "Rant" is not, IMHO, a fair way to deal with what is also the result
> of what "others have seen with their own eyes and lived through". So
> that let us be more specific.
> Every and each community on planet Earth is crisscrossed by cracks
> and oppositions. This elementary truth, which I am sure José will
> share to the last point, is far from a truism, or at least it is far
> more than a truism.
> These oppositions may (or may not) become opportunities for
> revolutionary or for counter-revolutionary action. I have not stated
> that imperialism has changed their goals today, what I have stated is
> that today they have the best opportunity to achieve their goal,
> which is to unspeakably weaken every people in the Third World. In
> territorial terms, the expression of that goal is further (and if
> possible endless) fragmentation into "ethnically pure" units of the
> larger units, because -structurally speaking- this is their best
> option scenario.
> This was not so valid a couple of decades ago, both because there was
> a political necessity to enforce state power on rebel or would-be
> rebel populations (thus the need for more or less strong states,
> given the grim fact that standing colonial armies had become a thing
> of the past after the 50s / 60s over most of the world), AND because
> the realization of capital coul accomodate with the half-developed
> processes of state formation and national unification in the Third
> World. But this accomodation was not the ultimate desire of
> imperialists, and on the other hand the necessities of surplus
> capital and realization of capital make it harder, day after day, to
> accomodate with what remains of the years when imperialism could
> arrive at some agreement with large Third World states and their
> potential consequences.
> The ultimate desire, which the "globalization" of finance is turning
> real (not formally real, but in the concrete dialectical sense that
> Marx and Engels thought of Hegel's "all that is rational is real and
> all that is real is rational"), was to have the most unimpeded hand
> for mobility of capital, and to have people and workers caged into
> mini units where exploitation would be easier.  In this sense, we
> agree, I suppose, that it is easier for, say, Nike, to impose their
> will on the eventual Aceh government than on the Indonesian
> government.
> This is what underlies my belief that, as a general rule, imperialism
> will foster Balkanization in the Third World as long as it does not
> feel the need to confront with an objective enemy such as the fSU
> was. The conditions generated by "globalization" can only make things
> worse, in this sense. I am not thinking of an "overriding strategy"
> as José says below:
> >
> >     But the truth is imperialism has no such overriding strategy.
> >  [...] racism and chauvinism are an inherent part of imperialism,
> > not just ideologically, but on the ground. As for specific
> > situations, they view things politically, and so should we.
> >
> I am speaking of a concrete internal necessity of the mode of
> production, of an objective necessity which may or may not arise as a
> formal and concrete strategy, and which can, and certainly does, have
> counter-currents and detours.
> I agree in that imperialists "view things politically, and so should
> we".  In fact, this is something I usually stress against
> sectarianism. But "politically" is not the same as "crassly
> pragmatically". "Politically" means, rather,  "consistently with our
> long ranging goals -which express the structural necessities of the
> kind of social organization we defend- and with flexibility as to
> local developments along time".
> The question to be settled here is an entirely differentone. The
> question is whether there is an INHERENT need of imperialism to have
> weak states in the Third World or not, and whether under the current
> situation, it is not better for us to understand many if not most
> claims for segregation as a tendency that (in general, not always)
> runs in the general sense of that necessity. That is, in the sense of
> reaction.
> The words above may thus counter José's apparently hard argument when
> he says that
> >     in the early 1980s, when no one is claiming that the U.S. was
> > following a strategy of encouraging the struggles of oppressed peoples
> > against their oppression, as some seem to believe it is doing now, the
> > United States had no trouble figuring out that it should take
> > advantage of the mistakes made by the FSLN on the Atlantic Coast of
> > Nicaragua so that it could use young Miskitus as cannon fodder in the
> > war against the Sandinista revolution.
> Since I believe that the goal of fragmentation of subject countries
> (and consolidation, or even unification under careful conditioning,
> of First World, exploiting, countries) is a structural tendency of
> capitalism in the age of imperialism, I did believe in the early 80s
> (and I have always believed, by the way) that the policies towards
> Third World national movements would always include "ethnic"
> components such as that of the Miskito question.
> The Miskito question, the Belize question, the fake (but nonetheless
> real, in the sense we are speaking about) Kelper question, are
> expressions of the imperialist interest in segregation of weak states
> out of existing Third World states. In Argentina we have at least two
> examples, in oil-producing provinces: Salta in the 1920s, under the
> asupices of the Standard Oil, and Chubut in the 1980s, under the
> auspices of Exxon. In fact, a Latin American can expose every one and
> each of the Latin American "nations" as examples of fragmentation
> which obstruct the way towards constitution of a national economic
> arena. This fragmentation was received by imperialism as the heir
> from previous times, and it is my contention that imperialism not
> only is happy with it, but it will try to further fuel fragmentation
> if it does not bring about dangerous social movements in the Third
> World.
> This does not imply that the rights to national unification must run
> against the rights to the free development of local cultures, and so
> on. The example that José is giving here of the Miskitos sent into
> the arms of American imperialism by a mistaken FSLN is somehow misled
> and forgets some interesting historic facts (that the Miskitos have
> been drilled into fragmentation of Central American unity from the
> 17th Century onwards by British pirates, for example). But he is
> right in pointing out that we must not deal with these issues the way
> a bourgeois regime would have (and actually has: I always recall the
> Languedoil / Languedoc example). We must begin with respect to
> people's beliefs (I intentionally use the vague wording, "people",
> because we are not at an immediately "classist" issue here), and at
> the same time with the conviction that further segregation,
> particularly when there is a revolutionary regime in power (such as
> FSLN was), can only help imperialists both against the segregating
> ones and the country they try to separate from. What the FSLN did in
> the first stage of the Miskito issue, by the way, was to follow up
> the politics established by the great Nicaraguan patriot President
> Zelaya. Thanks to Zelaya, Mosquitia did not become a Belize. So that
> the policy (which eventually proved outdated, but also a policy that
> socialists could not follow) had reasonable grounds in the Nicaraguan
> history. I would shun from the "genocidal" in what follows by José,
> but I certainly agree with the general thrust of this part of his
> argument. I would only add, however, that he is not countering my
> propositions with it, rather supporting them.
> >
> >     The FSLN discovered, not from books, but from life, the genocidal
> >     logic
> > of the course they were on. No matter how many "beasts" you
> > "exterminated," one thing was true of the Miskitu resistance: you
> > could not get rid of it, not unless you rubbed them all out
> Yes, this is why us socialists must deal with these things
> differently. But the question is whether the Miskitu resistance was
> acting on behalf of imperialism or not, and at most on how to
> deactivate it, not on how reasonable it was for the Miskitu to
> secede. What was needed was a way out of secessionist attempts
> fostered by imperialism, not a way out of Nicaraguan unity (which in
> itself is just a shred of the Central American unity of the early
> times, and even this C.A. unity is a shred of the great Latin
> American federation that both Bolívar and Trotsky exposed as our only
> way to the future). It was due to scant theorethical attention given
> to the national question (paradoxically enough) by the FSLN, which was
> clearly a National Liberation front and not only in the name, that the
> question of Mosquitia traversed such a terrible road. Yes, it certainly
> >     took a while, and at a tremendous toll both for the Miskitu
> >     people
> > and the Nicaraguan nation as a whole, but the revolution finally
> > figured out that the way to oppose this WAS NOT to struggle against
> > the Miskitus as a reactionary people who had aligned themselves with
> > imperialism, but to recognize the rights of the Miskitus as an
> > oppressed people, and therefore a natural ally of the revolutionary
> > cause. The FSLN government implemented this new policy by granting the
> > Miskitus an autonomy that, in fact, on the ground, was so broad that
> > virtually the entire Río Coco region was put under the control of the
> > armed Miskitus who the day before had been derided as "beasts,"
> > "mercenaries" and "contras."
> On the condition, dear José, that this region would not separate from
> Nicaragua and fight against the common imperialist enemy. This you
> forget when you pose your example.
> >
> >     The need for the working class revolutionary movement to support
> >     the
> > struggle of historically oppressed peoples is a lesson that was paid
> > for with the blood of thousands of Sandinista and Miskitu martyrs. As
> > fate would have it, I had the terrible privilege to be a witness to
> > part of this fratricide, which imposes on me the obligation to say
> > quite frankly, that the policy being advocated here of turning our
> > backs on the national movements of oppressed peoples, because they are
> > too small a group, because imperialism is trying to manipulate them,
> > is a policy that leads to fratricide, and eventually to genocide and
> > the death of any revolutionary movement that falls into this mistake
> > and does not correct it.
> Then, I must say that you misunderstood me completely. I am
> absolutely for supporting the right of any splinter of humanity to
> live according with their own rules, but there is a single price I
> cannot allow them to pay for it, which is to obtain a "sovereignty"
> that is real against the Third World state that they are pitted
> against, but false against the First World nation that will mould
> them, even against their own will, and many times without their
> realizing it, into Bantustans. I am a little short of news on the
> East Timorese situation now. But I have posted something on the issue
> when I commented on Ramos Horta's decission to establish the best
> relationship with Jakarta while giving the Ozzies a bad time. On that
> posting I openly stated that if this was the general direction that
> the East Timorese were beginning to take, then my forebodings might
> prove wrong (and I added that I would be happy if I was proved
> wrong).  I am not against human diversity. I am just against
> imperialism, and the usage of that diversity to impose global
> uniformity under the iron heel of imperialism.
> Then, José jumps to Ecuador, where interesting  developments take
> place. I will not expand on an issue I still do not have too clear,
> but I will just point out that there is a mistake in this
> "indigenous" issue. As Mariátegui has explained long, long ago, the
> "Indian"  issue in Perú (and more rightly so in Ecuador) is the
> peasant issue. I am certain that what we are witnessing in Ecuador is
> not a matter of "national self determination" for "indigenous
> peoples"  but a new stance of that ages old Latin American drama, the
> peasant drama. But well, before I am carried away by this new issue,
> I stop here.
> I want to thank José for reposting to the list.
> Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
> gorojovsky at

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