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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