RE: (Nestor) Re:What is Lüko looking for?

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Sun Sep 28 06:57:10 MDT 2003

Mike Friedman writes:

>>In his view, the defeat was the result of Sandinista errors, such as
problems with the military service, corruption, orientation to sectors
of capital, verticalism, poor approaches to the campesinos, etc. I
argued that these had to be seen in the context of the U.S.
intervention. The reality is that both sets of phenomena conditioned the
overthrow of the FSLN government, and a balance sheet would have to show
not only how Washington played the main role in overthrowing the
Sandinista revolution, but also how Sandinista contradictions actually
weakened Solidarity (such as -- in the name of diplomatic convenience --
when the FSLN oriented the Mexican solidarity movement to stop
pressuring the Zedillo government to restore oil shipments to
Nicaragua). <<

The cause of the defeat of the Nicaraguan Revolution was the imperialist
aggression. The revolution was drowned in blood militarily and
suffocated economically. It really is as simple as that.

What we are talking about are the factors that made it possible for
imperialism to do that, and the reasons the defeat took the specific
forms that it did.

The central factor is this: there was an insufficient material basis for
resistance to the imperialist onslaught within Nicaragua. However it
would be wrong to say the material basis for the revolution in Nicaragua
did not exist -- but it was not inside the country. It existed in the
socialist camp, first and foremost the Soviet Union.

I believe, having observed the process at close range for four years,
that timely Soviet military and economic aid to Nicaragua would have
allowed the Nicas to defeat the imperialist aggression, with this
leadership. On the scale of the Soviet economy, or the socialist block
as a whole, the needed resources were practically zero. What was missing
was the political will.

Militarily the needed aid was insignificant. What was needed was a few
jet planes --even Korean war museum pieces would do-- to take out the
CIA air resupply operation for the contras, which is what allowed them
to take the war to the interior of the country. And a few dozen more
Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters, (the Nicas had perhaps 20 total) to be able
to throw a few hundred troops behind the contra columns and block their
retreat. The evidence is overwhelming that such aid was promised under
Brezhnev and Andropov, because by mid-1984 Nicaragua had trained pilots
for the jets and was building a military air base. But the Soviets
welched. Of course, whether they had any intention of living up to their
promises is doubtful, for they also --and totally consciously-- allowed
the Chilean revolutionary process to be strangled.

The historic betrayals of the Soviet Union in Latin America were
carefully documented in the Ted Turner financed 24-part documentary
series "Cold War."


Narration: In November 1971, Fidel Castro arrived to support Allende's
policy of change through the ballot box. 

Interview: President Fidel Castro, Cuba 

"We fully supported his policy. We trained people for his personal
security. We were experienced in this because we had had to defend
ourselves against those who had wanted to destroy us. We told him about
this because we thought he had enemies who might try to take his life." 

Narration: The dangers didn't just come from the right. Castro's Cuban
policy of armed revolution found favor with Chile's extreme left, who
were hostile to Allende's methods. 

But most Chileans ignored the call to armed struggle. 

As inflation mounted, the right attacked economically. CIA money helped
pay for Chilean truck owners to bring the country to a standstill. At
the U.N., Allende accused ITT of trying to provoke a civil war. 

Archival Footage: President Salvador Allende, December 4, 1972 

"They propose economic strangulation, diplomatic sabotage, social
disorder, to produce panic among the people allowing the army to
overthrow a democracy and put in a dictatorship." 

Narration: Moscow was the next stop. There Allende sought the money he
needed to stave off bankruptcy. But the Russians, already spending a
fortune to support Cuba, were unimpressed. 

Interview: Nikolai Leonov, KGB, Latin American Department 

"We had come to a conclusion. This regime would soon be toppled because
they were trying through very democratic means -- without the use of
arms -- to break the resistance of stronger opposition forces." 


The Sandinistas asked the Soviets for help. 

Interview: Yuri Pavlov, Soviet Foreign Ministry 

"The leaders in Moscow did not want to provoke the United States into
giving more military aid to the Contras and to the Honduran government.
Therefore these requests were politely denied every time the Sandinistas
brought it up in Moscow." 

Narration: The Sandinistas, with help from Cuba, vowed to defend their
borders and the revolution. 


In the United States, the new Reagan administration blamed Cuba and

Archival Footage: U.S. Secretary of State, March 22, 1981 

Gen. Alexander Haig: "What we're watching is a four-phased operation.
Phase one has been completed -- the seizure of Nicaragua. Next is El
Salvador, to be followed by Honduras and Guatemala -- it's clear and

Other: "There is a Caribbean domino theory that's unfolding?" 

Gen. Haig: "Of course. I wouldn't call it necessarily a domino theory. I
would call it a priority target list -- a hit list if you will -- for
the ultimate takeover of Central America." 

Interview: President Fidel Castro, Cuba 

"Look, if a Soviet-Cuban master plan actually existed we would have won
the Cold War. (Laughs) If there had been a master plan. But
unfortunately there was no such plan, quite the opposite. Cuba's actions
conflicted with Soviet interests at that time." 

YOU CAN FIND IT ALL HERE, including LOTS more on Guatemala, Grenada, and
so on:

*  *  *

Note especially Fidel's considered judgment, in an interview done around
1997 or 1997: "if a Soviet-Cuban master plan actually existed," that is,
if the Soviet Union had followed a policy of revolutionary
internationalism, "we would have won the Cold War."

The fundamental problem in Nicaragua was that it HAD to rely on aid from
the international working class. The revolution was based NOT on the
relationship of forces between imperialism and the working people of
Nicaragua or even Central America generally, but on a world scale.

This was a relationship of forces that was established by the two
outstanding political developments of the XX Century, the October
Revolution and the defeat of German imperialism in WWII by the Soviet
Union, with the resulting collapse of direct colonialism due to the
exhaustion of all the main colonial powers and the creation of a world
socialist camp.

As became evident a few years later, there wasn't enough LEFT of the
October Revolution to even save the Soviet Union, never mind Nicaragua.
And it does no good to complain it was the bureaucracy and so on and so
forth. The holocaust that has befallen working people in the former
Soviet Union is history's way of saying, next time you take power, be a
little more careful in how you use it.

Sandinista policies did play a role in how the defeat of the revolution
unfolded. But not just the factors Mike alludes to, which mostly were
the forms in which the toll taken on the revolution by the imperialist
aggression in turn manifested themselves within the revolutionary
vanguard. In my judgment the overriding political mistake was their
early policy towards the Miskitus, which allowed the contra to expand
from a force of one or two hundred ex Somocista National Guards that
would have been easily contained and then defeated. The Sandinistas,
showing their revolutionary mettle, were able to correct this policy and
completely neutralize the CIA's manipulation of the national aspirations
of the Miskitu people. This was registered by the autonomy agreement of

But by then, the CIA had begun succeeding in leveraging the initial
social base among the Miskitu people into a broader social base among
the peasantry in Nicaragua's agricultural frontier, and by mid-1985
contra columns were operating deep inside the country, in the cattle
zone of the fifth military region, Boaco and Chontales, which is as far
from any border as it is possible to get in Nicaragua.

This was facilitated by unintended consequences of early reforms in the
countryside, which sought to replace the traditional exploitative credit
and distribution networks with state institutions, and an agrarian
reform policy centered on the creation of cooperatives and state farms
--in effect, you had to collectivize to benefit from the agrarian
reform-- rather than simply giving land to landless peasants.

That the Sandinistas could and would also have refined these policies,
and improved the functioning of the state institutions that serviced the
needs of the countryside I have no doubt. But they did not get a chance
to. The war had unleashed a tremendous economic crisis which the
operation of the capitalist market automatically placed on the backs of
working people, despite Sandinista efforts to mitigate its effects. The
working people became atomized in a maddening day-to-day struggle to put
food on the table; the unions and revolutionary mass organizations
virtually ceased functioning as such; the FSLN was no longer able to
rely as much on the mass movement, on mass initiatives and
participation, and resorted increasingly to administrative and
bureaucratic methods. Careerist and opportunist elements --and those
same tendencies within revolutionary cadres-- tended to come to the
fore. These growing phenomena within the FSLN were simply the form that
the toll taken on the country and its revolution took within its
vanguard detachment.

Of course, there was a continuity with the specific forms in which the
FSLN was organized, the pre-eminence of the National Directorate and so
on. But even if the broader Sandinista Assembly had been invested with
formal top authority, or even a party Congress, I believe that it was
inevitable that the defeat of the revolution would take its toll on and
break the FSLN as a revolutionary instrument. The fact that there was no
significant advance towards a broader authoritative leadership body than
the nine after 1984 or 1985 was by then a reflection of the beleaguered
state of the revolution, not its cause. 


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