Tuesday, September 1, 2020

[2011] Then as farce: the 'second phase' of FSLN electoralism

Martha Grevatt's article "Sandinista revolution enters second phase" published online by Workers World Party gives an inaccurate and one-sided view of the FSLN, the 1979 Nicaraguan Revolution, and the 1990 Nicaraguan election. Whatever one's opinion of Grevatt's reporting from present-day Nicaragua, our movement's understanding of what happened in Nicaragua is central to the task of rebuilding communist leadership, and communist parties worthy of the name, today.

In her unfortunately "me-too" cheerleading paean to the current FSLN, Grevatt writes:
The FSLN is named for liberation fighter Augusto C├ęsar Sandino, who was murdered by U.S. Marines in 1933. In 1979, guerrilla fighters from the front overthrew the hated, U.S.-backed dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza. A five-member "junta" that included Ortega took over leadership. In 1984 Ortega was elected president.
Are these kinds of misremembered generalizations allowed life because the article's author remembers history this way, or because no one bothered to go back and re-read the contemporary accounts of the FSLN and the 1979 Nicaraguan revolution? For it was a Nicaraguan Revolution, not simply a guerillaist overthrow of a US-backed dictator, as Grevatt leads readers to believe. The 1979 Revolution [occurring in the same annus mirabilis as the Grenadian and Iranian revolutions] was prepared for over a decade by a communist leadership team around Carlos Fonseca, who fell in battle in 1976. In addition to a military civil war, the revolution conquered power through unprecedented rural and urban organization, preparing workers and peasants for power, and actually governing liberated areas well before 7/19/1979. A reading of the FSLN's Historic Program gives an excellent insight into the Marxist spirit of Fonseca's team, and their embrace of the "Cuban road."
Continuing, Grevatt writes:
From 1981 to 1990 the U.S. engaged in economic sabotage against Nicaragua and financed the "contras," counterrevolutionaries who waged a war of terror that cost 40,000 to 50,000 lives. In 1990, Ortega lost to opposition candidate Violeta Chamorro, whose campaign was heavily funded by the U.S.
From reading this, one would think Nicaragua's workers and farmers lost the contra war. In fact, by 1988 the contra war was finished as a strategic military operation by Washington and its regional allies to overthrow the results of the 1979 revolution. FSLN's own corrections of its errors among indigenous peoples, and progress on land reform, eroded any material basis the contras had to remain in the field.
One would also think, reading Grevatt, that the 1990 electoral defeat for Daniel Ortega was the result of an unprecedented wave of contra terror and Yankee dollars. But in fact, the 1990 Nicaraguan elections only registered a situation that had already come to exist in the Nicaraguan class struggle. To pose the question of the FSLN's political evolution in the sharpest and most accurate way: the most politically advanced cadre were left leaderless in an organization-wide retreat from the "Cuban road" of overthrowing capitalism and building a mass communist party. Daniel Ortega came to be the spokesman for these forces, which rationalized their course as a "third-way": part Olaf Palme, part perestroika. We who were there will not forget the 1990 FSLN election slogan: "With Daniel we'll get more."

Hardly a slogan to rival "Hasta la victoria simepre!"

And hardly grounds for saying that the reelection of Ortega today would represent, as Grevatt says in her headline, a "second phase" of the 1979 revolution. Rhetoric of phases and stages used to mask and obscure the organization of defeat and demobilization of workers and farmers by the FSLN for nearly a quarter century does not help rebuild a communist movement in Nicaragua or the United States. ["Second phase" sounds distinctly like the kind of double-dealing outcome imposed recently on Verizon workers, whose union leadership drove them back to work unconditionally. ]
Perilous retreats are necessary at all levels of working class struggle, but revolutionaries must present them and defend them as retreats, not as antechambers to greater victories when they clearly are not. Grevatt's unscientific and impressionistic view of Ortega's at-best middle class radicalism is nothing short of scandalous.
Grevatt should know that Ortega's politics do not advance the historic demands of Nicaragua's toilers. He has given ample proof if his course over the decades. On abortion and womens' rights, something all communists have a mortal stake in, we will merely note that today he is an anti-choice as he was twenty years ago :

Ortega sought to rationalize this position by pointing to the U.S.-sponsored counterrevolutionary war and its impact on Nicaragua's small population. "The ones fighting in the front lines against this aggression are young men," he said. "One way of depleting our youth is to promote the sterilization of women in Nicaragua—just imagine what would happen then—or to promote a policy of abortion."

"The problem is that the woman is the one who reproduces. The man can't play that role," Ortega continued. Some women, he said, "aspiring to be liberated," decide not to bear children. "A woman who does so negates her own continuity, the continuity of the human species."

This stance was one registration of the FSLN leadership's growing abandonment of the revolutionary government's proletarian course in the early years following the overthrow of Somoza. The workers and farmers government had begun to take far-reaching measures in the interests of the producing majority. By the mid-1980s, however, the FSLN leadership began retreating from mobilizing working people to fight for their interests. Instead, it relied more and more on alliances with sections of the capitalist class. The current FSLN leadership has sought to carve out for itself a place in capitalist ruling circles, and to use its political influence to expand lucrative business interests as well.

All the ALBA window-dressing in the world cannot rechristen a capitalist electoral party like the FSLN as a revolutionary organization. Marxists judge individuals, groups, and political parties by their actions, not their campaign slogans or Tammany Hall-style perspicacity.

In a communist newspaper today, we are given not our own line of march, but this by Grevatt:

The FSLN-led government favors redistribution of wealth. It gives assistance to small farmers and thousands of worker-owned and -run cooperatives, not to big agribusiness as in the U.S. Under the FSLN, the cost of living for an average family has gone down while minimum salaries have doubled.

Quoting the press releases and public statements of Ortega flunkies like Dr. Paul Oquist will not suffice.

One should not leave the impression that the FSLN alone has a monopoly on shamelessly "dining-out" with the working class solely on the basis of past victories now explicitly rejected. Nationalist movements in the semicolonial world that never posed or achieved the clarity or mass mobilization of the FSLN in its heroic [i.e. communist] period, are likewise acting today on the fact that they are unfit for anything but ballot-mongering:

....exhaustion of revolutionary content marks the political evolution of petty-bourgeois and aspiring bourgeois leaderships of national liberation movements today: from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and other Palestinian organizations such as Hamas, to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA).

These organizations arose (or re-arose) during the closing decades of the twentieth century on the basis of powerful opposition to national oppression among the Palestinian, Irish, and Basque peoples. Over the past four decades, however, the leaderships of these organizations have relied on spectacular armed actions, in combination (especially as such operations not only produced no gains but met intensified repression) with diplomatic and political maneuvers to reach a negotiated accommodation with the oppressors. Mobilizations organized by them were more and more used solely as pressure to better realize such an accommodation.

None of these leaderships ever proved capable of mobilizing and leading the workers and peasants as the backbone of a revolutionary democratic movement capable of fighting effectively for national liberation, freedom from imperialist domination, land to the tillers, the right to armed self-defense, and the organization of the working class to act in the interests of the producing classes. None developed a leadership of the revolutionary caliber and political capacity of the July 26 Movement and Rebel Army in Cuba, the National Liberation Front of Algeria, Sandinista National Liberation Front of Nicaragua, New Jewel Movement of Grenada, or the revolutionary movement in Burkina Faso. [*]

Petty bourgeois leaderships like the FSLN today are an impediment. Telling workers in any part of the Americas that their electoral victory is a breakthrough for our class simply prepares the next generation for demoralization. We need a new levy of Carlos Fonsecas, and that will not be accomplished by a new electoral mandate for the FSLN's policies.

I will close with one more quotation of the programmatic basis today of these squalid, anti-worker policies:

....A brief declaration issued by the FSLN delegation to the Nicaraguan National Assembly Aug. 16, 2006, echoed this position.

"We are a party in favor of life," it said. "Therefore we reaffirm our respect, promotion, development, and protection of the lives of Nicaraguan men and women… and consequently we stand against abortion."

According to Ipas, a U.S.-based reproductive rights groups, only 24 authorized abortions have been performed in Nicaragua in the last three years, while some 32,000 illegal abortions are performed in the country each year. Maternal and infant mortality rates in Nicaragua are among the highest in the region, with abortions contributing to 16 percent of all maternal deaths.

Jay Rothermel


1 comment:

  1. A reader made some pertinent defenses of the Grevatt article, which I feel honor-bound to present:


    I don't know... I actually kind liked the article from a propagandist point of view because it shows how revolutions can suceed. To often our paper doesn't have any articles highlighting good things in anti-imperialist regimes.

    Its pretty obvious the Sandinistas didn't suceed in building socialism, but now that they are back in power they have joined the Bolivarians and are entering that grey area of revolutionaries controlling bourgeois states, trying to tear them apart from the inside, and in the meantime functioning as bourgeois social-democratic nationalists.

    Nicaragua is now in the position Venezuela was in 2002 as far as I can see.

    All of the Bolivarian states are in a weird situation. They are not worker's states, but they are about as infiltrated and proletarian dominated as bourgeois states can ever be.

    Chavez is doing his best to empower an alternate state structure of "Communal Councils" i.e. Soviets, and defund the state.

    Nicaragua seems to be a popular front government in which Bourgeois Nationalists are pulling on one side, and revolutionary communists are on the other, with Ortega negoitating between the two, while everyone fights the Yankee imperialists at the same time.

    Who knows what will become of the Bolivarian Road?

    It has really caught on, but in some ways, it is yet to deliver on its promise of "21st Century Socialism."

    We shall see.