What They Are Saying

September 25, 2007

...we are used to thinking that imperi- alism only wants to keep us in misery. I believe that was true in the past, but it is not the moment we are experiencing now. Victor Tirado, FSLN National Directorate Anti-imperialism will remain valid as long as imperialism exists. Luis Carri6n, FSLN National Directorate As a party member and a national workers leader, Idemanda clearandfirm stance from the Frente Sandinista.... We can't have these hybrid positions. Stabil- ityfor the people is one thing; stability for the bourgeoisie is another. Jose Bermddez, National Workers Front (FNT) We see the same faces in different places, [before] in the government and now in theparty. The FSLNis divided, not between 'pragmatist' and 'orthodox' groups, but between 'first class' and 'no class. ' Augusto Zamora, Sandinista legal advisor When I returned to Nicaragua late last year, seven months after the inauguration of the new government and four months after the July labor strikes, I encountered a panorama that was different from any- thing I had witnessed before: a deteriorat- ing economy coupled with political effer- vescence. The slogan "National Direc- torate: Give Us Your Orders!" that ac- Argentine social scientist Carlos M. Vilas teaches at the UNAM in Mexico. companied eleven years of Sandinista rule, had given way to a kaleidoscope of opin- ions loosely referred to as the "internal debate." The immediate debate revolves around Sandinista policy toward the government and the grassroots protests; in more gen- eral terms, it concerns the future of the FSLN as a popular force, as well as the party's position in a shifting world order. For months, the Sandinista daily Bar- ricada has covered the ongoing polemic. One of the more controversial statements came from Commander Victor Tirado in November. Tirado contends that the era of anti-imperialist revolutions has come to an end, with the fall of the socialist bloc and the decline of Soviet support for the Third World. Moreover, anti-imperialist movements end up in economic disaster. "If we understand anti-imperialist struggles to mean a total military and economic confrontation with imperial- ism, then the cycle of these kinds of revo- lutions is ending. We have to look for new options....The worldwide trend can be summed up in two phrases: market econ- omy and free elections." Since the FSLN defined its mission as a "perpetual struggle against U.S. imperialism, then, of course, we were going to be struggling eternally." Tirado's thesis provoked an immedi- ate and intense reaction. FormerOAS am- bassador Carlos Tunnerman responded that despite changes on the international scene, the FSLN would remain "nation- alist, anti-imperialist, and committed to defending our dignity and self-determina- tion." This would not exclude adopting a more modern definition of imperialism, one that "doesn't mean a permanent con- frontation with the United States, but a search for a relationship of mutual respect." Comandante Tombis Borge, the only surviving founder of the FSLN, was more virulent: "Statements that imperi- alism doesn't exist, or that it doesn't merit a confrontation, a political and ideologi- cal war, are...historically false." Luis Car- ri6n concurred: "Anti-imperialism is the flip side of our defense of Nicaraguan sovereignty, and of our commitment to the peoples of the Third World." On the domestic front, agreements between the FSLN and the Chamorro government have revived the old ques- tion of class alliances. In the wake of last May's strike movement, sociologist Orlando Nufiez Soto declared conditions ripe for a "revolutionary alliance of ur- ban workers and campesinos, especially those campesinos who formed the base of the Nicaraguan Resistance...an alliance aborted by Sandinista policies and by the counterrevolution." Former Sandinista cabinet minister Alejandro Martfnez Cuenca shot back that such a proposal sounded more like France in 1968 than present day Nicara- gua. The FSLN, he countered, should strive to unite different nationalist cur- rents in favor of development with social justice. Sandinismo should defend the rights of the poor, but from a "multi- class, pluralistic perspective." Tunnerman agrees. The FSLN should promote a social pact that would be "the heart of a new national, multi-class proj- ect." Former Vice President Sergio Ramirez calls on the party to open its ranks to "anyone with patriotic sentiments." Comandante Henry Rufz, a member of the National Directorate, advocates a "broad alliance of social and political sectors genuinely concerned with promoting the interests of Nicaragua above all else." Others have pushed for the FSLN to

maintain its popular hue. Jurist Augusto Zamora remarked that agreements with the govemment are attractive to those lookmg to curry government tavor and hold on to former privileges. "Instead of suicide accords with the oligarchy. we need anational popular and anti-imperial- ict r~vnliitinnaw frnnt tn win hark power." The Sandinista leadership is walking a tightrope: They want to maintain a dia- maw- wlrn rne rrnvernmenl In nmer ro keepthe "hard-liners" at bay:at the same time they wish to remain at the forefront of the popular movement. Last summer's pmtests, which occurred largely on the margin of FSLN activity, are a case in point. According to FNT leader DAmaso Vargaq-the FSLNdid not support the May labor strikes; in July. "there were actions in Managuathat the (FSLN)departmental ! commission opposed. and. I should point Humberl out. even tried to dismantle." Un that occasion, Sandinista leaders publicly supported union demands and negotiated an agreement with the government to end the conflict. But when the govemment violated the accords, the FSLN was left hanging. By September. the FNT was threatening more agitation. At first. top Sandinistas opposed talks with the gov- ernment. Then, following a meeting be- tween Daniel mega. Chamorro advisor Antonio Lacayo and US. Ambassador Hany Schlaudeman on September 28. and the failure of the FNT's October I protests, the FSLN leaned in favor of a negotiated settlement, dragging the FNT along with it. In the end, the FNT gained Bome autonomy, hut ultimately recog- nized the FSLN'spolitical leadership; the FSLN strengthened its position as a go- between with government moderates. Since last year. the "pragmatists" I-onseca. cntlclzed the process as "con- cials who had gone into party posts. Car- los Fonseca TerBn. a Sandinista youth leader and son of FSLN founder Carlos - . . . . . tradictory": discussing democratization while presenting a slateofcandidates who had "stepped down" fmm leadership . . . . a p . . posttlons. ratner tnan nsen trom tne base. At the same time. it's common to hear in the same breath acritiqueof centralism or "verticalism," and complaints on the "lack ofdirection" orthe "lack of aclear Ortwa and Dotla Vloleta: !O Walking a tight;ope within the FSLN havegainedaclearedge. This gmup. many of whomoccupied high posts under Ortega argues the need for national reconciliation, given the popula- tion's war-wearinessand the lackof inter- national support for aradicalization of the revolution. On the other end of the spec- trum. an "orthodox" contingent advo- cates the unconditional defense of worker and peasant rights. Since the pragmatist vein is strongerin the upperreaches of the FSLN than at the base. "orthodox" Sandinistas emphasize democratization and renovation within the party. It is a demand that resonates with the party's base. The elections for the 600 congress delegates held throughout 1W provoked dissatisfaction among many grassroots groups. The majority of the candidates were former government offi- cials who had gone into party posts. Car- line." Much of the party's base is. in fact. less concerned with politics than with daily survival issues: this pmhably ex- plains why the FNT labor movement has gained prominence and escaped many of the barbs thrown at the FSLN. Barring some surprise. the documents coming out of thecongress will attempt to reconcile thedisoarate oositions reflected in the debate. Th'is woild include a ratifi catlon of antl-~mpenahsm and ot the na- tionalist and popular nature of sandin- ismo (although with an elastic vision of the groups andlor classes that define the "nation"). and support fora mixed econ- omy andtherightsofthe poor. "Radical" orovertly classist language (references to the proletariat. the vanguard, the class struggle. etc.) would be stricken. The "new look" of Uarricada is symbolic of the kind of sandinismo likely to emerge from the July congress. The former title "Official Organ of the Sandin- ista National Liberation Fmnt" has heen replaced by a new slogan: "In the Na- tional Interest." The old red and black logoof a guerrilla fighter in the trenches is gone; in its place the paper's name ap- pars in large black type, framed on the right by a Nicaraguan flag with Sandino's portrait etched into it, and on the left by the day's winning lottery number.

Tags: Nicaragua, Sandinistas, Daniel Ortega, Violeta Chamorro, Politics

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