[Marxism] Re: Marxism Digest, Vol 9, Issue 4

Mike Friedman mikedf at mail.amnh.org
Fri Jul 2 09:33:48 MDT 2004


At 09:56 AM 7/2/2004, you wrote:
>In Miskitia, the Indian roots are a very heavy component but not the
>single one. This, however, is secondary when viewed from the London-
>based or Washington-based imperialist HQs.  A mutually beneficial
>partnership could be established between the newly fanged imperialist
>core and the local populations, a partnership whose common enemy was
>the Spanish Crown that both Creole and Mestizo would inherit.
>The Sandinistas were completely blind, or so it seems, to this fact
>of their national life, concentrating on "struggle for socialism"
>instead.  A serious flaw that would cost all of us dearly.  And right
>is Louis Pr. in pointing to this flaw.

I don't believe the Sandinistas were "blind" to the history of British 
colonialism and its sequelae in the Atlantic (read: Miskitu and other 
indigenous peoples and people of Black Caribbean ancestry)/Pacific (or 
"Espanoles -- as folks on the Atlantic side of the country called them), so 
much as underestimated the cultural differences, assuming that the 
indigenous people would assimilate forms of organization that developed in 
the mestizo region. Call it chauvinism, as I've known Sandinista leaders to 
do. But, the fact is, the Sandinistas were hardly concentrating on a 
"struggle for socialism," as you've stated on several occasions. Nestor, I 
would think that the dimensions of their struggle would be eminently to 
your liking! They were framed in strictly **nationalist** terms -- national 
unity, national liberation... and through countless fora, the FSLN sought 
Latin American unity. Their reforms of education, health care and agrarian 
reform: these were popular and nationalist, although transitional in LDB's 
sense. There was nationalization of land, some industry and resources, many 
under state control, but many under cooperatives or individual holdings. 
Contrary to Louis, I think the **overall** agrarian reform, not just the 
MIskitu question, was initially fucked up by the Sandinistas, as they 
themselves recognized, producing a peasant army around the core of the 
Somosista National Guard. Around '86 the Sandinista government "rectified" 
and introduced integral plans in the war zones (the entire north, Atlantic 
and central parts of the country), combining individual land titulation and 
a host of social and economic support services and popular consultations (I 
worked on this in the Matagalpa/Jinotega and Leon/Chinandega region as a 
rural extensionist with INPESCA). This rectification helped pave the way 
for the military defeat of the contras. The same occurred, as others have 
noted, on the Atlantic Coast through the popular autonomy consultations and 
vote, and different modes of service provision and popular participation. 
Speaking strictly of the Atlantic region, Nestor, you should check out 
writings on the autonomy situation, which, in spite of my criticisms of the 
FSLN at that time, was well handled, I believe from the point of view of 
recognizing the aspirations of indigenous peoples for self-determination 
AND maintaining national unity and integrity. If I can dig up some of my 
old Pensamiento Propios from that time, I'll gladly send you copies. While 
working for Barricada Internacional, my editor sent me to the 
Bluefields/Pearl Lagoon region to help set up a local newspaper (don't even 
remember the name -- a senior moment). One of the most interesting things 
was observing incipient forms of self-organization, such as the Cabildo 
Abiertos in Laguna de Perlas, which were not -- or not principally -- set 
up by the Sandinistas, but by local fishermen and artisans.

And by the way, hunger didn't play as profound a role in politics on the 
Atlantic coast as it did in the interior and Pacific. In this region people 
consistently remarked to me that it had never been an issue, they could 
always drop a fishing line into a river or lagoon and pull down some 
breadfruit or other crops. And, apparently a large part of the Bluefields 
population had access -- historically -- to contraband by way of the 
Caribbean. Interesting to examine how this played itself out...

Finally, I want to take both Walter and Louis to task for their brush-off 
of the Alejandro Bendana piece, which I found to be largely on target. Both 
disparage the individual, but offer no substantive refutation of his 
points. Bendana's points are most convincing precisely because he was for 
many years -- during and after the revolutionary period -- part of Daniel 
Ortega's inner circle and a major figure in the FSLN, recommended for a 
slot in the National Directorate at one point (don't know what happened 
there...). He is *still* a Sandinista. He, as much as anyone was in a 
position to know about the direction of motion within the FSLN.

Louis complains that

>That being said, I am afraid that his article has a lot of what we call
>"monday morning quarterbacking". Someday we'll be in a better position
>to assess the FSLN in power. In my opinion, it will rank with the Paris
>Commune as an inspiring example of what workers and peasants can do
>against all odds. You can still learn a lot from the way that the party

Problem with your opinion, Lou, is that Bendana is one of the players. And 
I don't think Bendana would deny what you say about the Commune. But, 
didn't Marx also critique the members of the Commune's **leadership**?


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