The Left Debates Insurrection

September 25, 2007

THE YOUNG MAN FROM THE URBAN MILITIA
spoke in tense whispers during a secretive meeting in spoke in tense whispersYOUNG MAN FROMduringTHEa secretive meetingURBAN MILITIA in thethe capital late last year: "The objective conditions for an capital late last year: "The objective conditions for an insurrectioninsurrection are given. The insurrectionary moment can are given. The insurrectionary moment can arrive..." arrive..." Is El Salvador headed for a leftist-led insurrection? The Is El Salvador headed for a leftist-led insurrection? The rebels of the FMLN certainly think so. Alleged FMLN rebels of the FMLN certainly think so. Alleged FMLN documentsdocuments recently captured contain a detailed scheme for recently captured contain a detailed scheme for the development of an interlocking web of urban commando the development of an interlocking web of urban commando cells, militia units, student and union organizers,cells, militia units, student and union organizers, and propa- and propaganda teams. The plan, titled Plan Fuego or Fire Plan, ganda teams. The plan, titled Plan Fuego or Fire Plan, outlines howoutlines how these units should be coordinated to provoke a these units should be coordinated to provoke a widespread insurrection. widespread insurrection.
Whether the guerrillas actually have the ability to spark Whether the guerrillas actually have the ability to spark an uprising isan uprising is still vigorously debated on the Left. Thanks to still vigorously debated on the Left. Thanks to a series of remarkablea series of remarkable polis taken over the last two years by polls taken over the last two years by the Jesuit-runthe Jesuit-run Central American University (UCA), more is Central American University (UCA), more is known about public opinionknown about public opinion in El Salvador than is often the in El Salvador than is often the case with Third World countries locked in civil war. The case with Third World countries locked in civil war. The polls demonstrate that, while disillusion with the existing polls demonstrate that, while disillusion with the existing government is widespread, only some 30% of the population government is widespread, only some 30% of the population has adoptedhas adopted explicitly "radicalized" politics. explicitly "radicalized" politics.
Spokespeople for the UCA unreservedly dismiss the Spokespeople for the UCA unreservedly dismiss the FMLN's plans for insurrection as wishful thinking. "People FMLN's plans for insurrection as wishful thinking. "People are very conscious of their misery, of their hunger, even of are very conscious of their misery, of their hunger, even of who is exploitingwho is exploiting them," asserts UCA Vice-Rector Ignacio them," asserts UCA Vice-Rector Ignacio MartIn-Baro. "Still, this doesn't lead them to think of insur- Martfn-Bar6. "Still, this doesn't lead them to think of insurrection. Thisrection. This is not to say that [the FMLNI doesn't have the is not to say that [the FMLN] doesn't have the sympathy of the majority-perhaps they do. But insurrec- sympathy of the majority-perhaps they do. But insurrections do not spring up by chance, much less after nine years of civil war." The FMLN, he argues, still lacks sufficient organizational links to broad sectors of El Salvador's poor, and faces an even more serious obstacle in the pervasive fear remaining among most of the population from the repression of the early l980s.

The politicians of the left-wing DemocraticThe politicians of the left-wing Democratic Convergence Convergence share the Jesuits'share the Jesuits' assessment of the current situation, but they assessment of the current situation, but they argue that things could change rapidly. "We don't see the argue that things could change rapidly. "We don't see the future as static," says Ruben Zamora. "We agree with the future as static," says Rub6n Zamora. "We agree with the UCA's analysis that there's only a small group of people in UCA's analysis that there's only a small group of people in the country already radicalized enough, and that most of the the country already radicalized enough, and that most of the peoplepeople are not really thinking about an insurrection right are not really thinking about an insurrection right now. But the UCA thinks that this situation is going to stay now. But the UCA thinks that this situation is going to stay the same forever. The FMLN puts much greater weight on the the same forever. The FMLN puts much greater weight on the capacity of this small, dedicated group to ignite an insurrec- capacity of this small, dedicated group to ignite an insurrection. Wetion. We think that while it's true this is the way things are think that while it's true this is the way things are now, there are allnow, there are all kinds of sudden and powerful events that kinds of sudden and powerful events that can bringcan bring about a change." about a change."
In the Plan Fuego papers, the strategists for the rebel In the Plan Fuego papers, the strategists for the rebel GeneralGeneral Command agree with the academics of the UCA Command agree with the academics of the UCA that fear bornthat fear born from the years of worst repression hinders the from the years of worst repression hinders the growthgrowth of their influence. They argue, however, that those of their influence. They argue, however, that those yearsyears also left behind a deep-seated and widespread hatred also left behind a deep-seated and widespread hatred ofof the Armed Forces and their U.S. backers. The rebels the Armed Forces and their U.S. backers. The rebels insistinsist that if they can show the population they have that if they can show the population they have sufficientsufficient military strength to defeat the army, the "politi- military strength to defeat the army, the "politicalcal memory" of hatred will overcome that of fear, and fuel memory" of hatred will overcome that of fear, and fuel thethe insurrection that would result. insurrection that would result.
At the end of oneAt the end of one in-depth discussion of the topic, a top in-depth discussion of the topic, a top FMLNFMLN leader was adamant: "You can't subject insurrec- leader was adamant: "You can't subject insurrectionarytionary tendencies to public opinion poils," he said. "Look, tendencies to public opinion polls," he said. "Look, thethe [UCA professors] are intellectuals who use Marxism as [UCA professors] are intellectuals who use Marxism as aa method for analyzing reality, not as an instrument for method for analyzing reality, not as an instrument for transformingtransforming it. We are in an insurrectionary situation right it. We are in an insurrectionary situation right now. And, to put it succinctly, they can't see what they don't now. And, to put it succinctly, they can't see what they don't want to see."want to see."

Tags: El Salvador, FMLN, offensive, guerrilla war


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