Nicaragua, moreno, etc.

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Fri Feb 15 22:14:25 MST 2002


    Obviously there were all sorts of internal weaknesses and contradictions
in the FSLN camp; and it is precisely through such elements that all sorts
of pressures make themselves felt.

    However, one has to ask, what is it that made it possible for the
revolution to take place and the masses to become organized in the first

    And then how was it possible for the role of the masses to be displaced
by functionaries and so on?

    In this, I don't think the prime cause was the FSLN's ideological or
political weaknesses. I would not say that the class contradictions in
Nicaraguan society were present in the FSLN and its leadership. The FSLN
was --clearly and consciously-- the party of the working people. But it is
true enough to say, of course, that the class divisions in Nicaraguan
society affected and were reflected in the FSLN and its leadership.

    Given the trajectory and track record of the FSLN in the struggle
against Somoza and for (at least) the first 3-4 years after the victory, I
do not think it can be accurately said that the problem was the FSLN, that
the Frente was trying to moderate and normalize things all along, and they
finally got their chance. Not that in those first years their policies were
perfect. (I'll get back to that later).

    I attribute the death of the revolution  to the demobilization, the
dis-organization, the atomization of the masses. In this, the war and the
resulting economic crisis played the overwhelming role.

You say, "I'm convinced that the gutting of popular organizations in the
name of defense, a shortcoming which even the FSLN criticized after the
fact, had a far greater impact on the FSLN's and the RPS's fortunes
(although not some of the FSLN leaders' fortunes). And the lack of food
supplies and medicines was a consequence of the imperialist blockade, as you

I'm not sure to what "gutting" you are referring to. If it is the withdrawal
of cadres to serve in the army and TPU, I do not think that's a very
complete explanation for the decline of the mass organizations.

I believe a much deeper cause of the disintegration of the mass
organizations was the economic crisis. By the fall of 1984, a worker at one
of the textile plants in the industrial zone along the carretera norte were
making more by selling on the black market the few yards of cloth they got
(essentially) as payment in kind than they were getting in their paychecks.
The same was true of workers at bottling plants, paint plants, etc.

Then you have the reality that in many cases, there had been substantial
turnover at these plants. Many of the best, most dedicated revolutionaries
had gone off in militia units. The same was true throughout the formal
sector of the economy, including the state apparatus. If this is what you
mean by "gutting," it was absolutely unavoidable, but its effect would not
have been as severe under other circumstances.

Now in those comments above I'm thinking primarily in terms of the urban
areas, and especially Managua, but I think the most harmful political
mistakes of the revolutionary process came in the countryside, in the policy
towards the Atlantic Coast and in how the agrarian reform was implemented.

The most important *political* lessons I think revolutionaries should draw
from the Sandinista experience is the importance of having an appropriately
"petty-bourgeois" program: respect for the right of oppressed minorities and
an agrarian reform that gives the land to those who work it.

On the treatment of the Miskitus, that is well undertood but it is worth
highlighting its MILITARY dimension. For the first period of the war, the
contra was mostly Miskitus. The couple of hundred former guardia could have
been handled if they had not been able to manipulate a couple of thousand
Miskitu fighters. This tied the contra over, so to speak, until another
sector of the population became sufficiently disenchanted to provide an even
broader social base for the contra. And that sector was the small farmers.

On the peasantry, I remember going to the campaign rally sponsored by the
peasant mass organization in Managua in September or October 1984, and
asking dozens of small farmers present there whether they had received an
individual parcel of land to work by themselves and whether they would have
preferred that. I did not find a single one who had received an individual
parcel, and the big majority of those I and another Militant reporter talked
to would have preferred that. In fact, in the entire time I was in Nicaragua
I did not find a single peasant who had received an individual parcel with
its corresponding title deed with no "cooperative" strings attached.

Couple that with the FSLN's policies of requisitioning basic grains from the
small peasantry at fixed prices at a time of galloping inflation, which
eventually went so far as to prohibit the transportation of rice, beans and
corn from one department to another without government authorization, and
the result was politically catastrophic.

Not in the comandante's speeches, perhaps, but on the ground, the FSLN's
agrarian policy was one of pressurized collectivization. This led to the
peasantry, especially of the agricultural frontier, joining the contra and
eventually transforming it, driving out the ex-GN folks which is what made
possible the peace of Sapoá, an essential element of which was the
government's promise to give individual plots of land to former contra

How deep remains the hostility in the countryside, and especially on the
agricultural frontier, towards the FSLN can be seen from these comments by
Tomás Borge in a December 3, 2000, interview with El Nuevo Diario:

"In Jinotega we lost in every municipality, where there is a vote against
the FSLN as a result of the mistakes we made in that department, the same in
Chontales." Borge says the draft and censorship also hurt them, "but the
great majority of the municipalities we lost as a conequence of a bad
agrarian administration, of the mistakes we made in the countryside, of the
repression and the measures in land distribution that many times were

Nevertheless, it is my judgment that those mikstaken agrarian policies could
and would have been reversed, as the policy towards the Atlantic Cost were
(in 1984), if it would somehow have been possible to defeat the contra and
stop the war before it had spread too widely in the countryside and before
it had too thoroughly demoralized the urban masses.

In this, the aid of the socialist camp would have been absolutely decisive.
Yet the socialist camp --and primarily the Soviet Union-- made a *conscious*
decision to deny Nicaragua that aid (and these is substantial evidence that,
for example, MiG fighters were promised, but the Soviets later welched on
that promise).

Of course, it would have been preferable for the FSLN to have had a more
thoughtful, thoroughly considered policy on each and every point, but it is
in the nature of things that no group is ever perfect and a revolutionary
process will force all sorts of contradictions.


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