Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Revolution in the Revolution: Nicaragua 1986
When I went to Nicaragua in 1986 Ronald Reagan and his ilk were trying to portray the ruling Sandinistas as the Soviet Union's latest new world dupes. I knew that the FSLN was a natural ally of Cuba's Communist leadership, and I came to find out that Nicaragua was developing economic ties to the socialist bloc to replace the ones severed by the US after the FLSN overthrew the Somoza dictatorship. But the FSLN was not a traditional Communist Party. Not only did it have a long history of factionalism between Marxist and non-Marxist factions, there was actually a whole spectrum of traditional Communist groups completely outside the Sandinista Front. This political spectrum was clearly evident in all the graffiti about town, but the activists behind this graffiti could also be found.
The photo above shows a militant of the Nicaraguan Socialist Party (PSN) preparing for the left's rival May Day rally that year in Managua. The event was much smaller than the official FSLN celebration of this universal socialist holiday, but it brought together hundreds of activists from many of Nicaragua's left-wing parties. I wound up meeting and later interviewing several of them. I found the role of left-wing parties in a left-wing state fascinating, and wanted to find out how they related to Nicaragua's new role as a member of the socialist world while dealing with some of the repressive and undemocratic tendencies of the FSLN itself.
The following is my transcript of the comments of Roberto Guzman Vazquez of the PSN, who I interviewed on 22 July 1986. These were never published anywhere; and while this largely falls in the category of water under the bridge, I found his comments and the story of the Nicaraguan left in general fascinating. I don't remember if I interviewed him in Spanish or English; in any case any error of transcription here is mine.
"In Nicaragua today ten political parties exist. These ten parties are so many each of the left, right and center. Our party maintains a position of critical support to the revolutionary process. We're neither a part of the FSLN nor the confrontational opposition...We are, however, against those policies that are against the human liberties of citizens. We protest the lack of trade union freedom...
"But we are a party that supports the FSLN in three important policies: the mixed economy, non-alignment, and political pluralism.
"In 1981 at the time of the last congress of the PSN, we defined a politic of alliance in several aspects. In this epic, the necessity of creating a democratic patriotic front; raising the banner of patriotism. On the other hand, as a question of principle, the unity of the Nicaraguan left....Thus through 1983 and '84, the FSLN, PPSC, PSN and PCdeN [Communist Party--ish] were allied in this FPR. With the elections the FPR disappeared. Now we're planning a Democratic and Anti-Imperialist Front...The problems of our country are so big, complex and difficult that our major preoccupation is the creation of unity. It's a problem of all Nicaraguans, not left or right. Forming a Front is a way out for all of us -- against the aggression, for economic growth and peace; national unity. A family living together.
"The MAP [Popular Action Movement, the Maoists--ish] has its own peculiar place in Nicaragua. To us it apears that they don't support the democratic conquests of the Revolution. We must, however, unite all Nicaraguans in the process of solving our problems. In the first place we must deal with the problems of the nation, not the problems of one class. Socialism is not the immediate solution to these problems.
"Certainly our activities have been curbed. Some elements in the FSLN want to attack our work. In the first place we get difficulties in our trade union work. The other principal form is that we have no access to materials for issuing a newspaper. We've gone six months without issuing one. To get materials for printing we need dollars, and we have no access to them. We're petitioning, but printing is very expensive. And there is censorship. There is censorship of our point of view, and the free development of thought. But we don't have anyone in prison. In march two trade union leaders were arested, but only for 15 days.
"We maintain an independent position. After the Front, we're the second force on the left. We have ten to fifteen thousand supporters in the trade unions. We've maintained a flexible position. We try to initiate cooperation on the left. See the unity statement that was in El Nuevo Diario recently.
We don't have relations with the socialist world. With the Triumph of the Revolution, the Front monopolized formal relations. We're an independent Marxist-Leninist party. But it is a struggle to maintain this independence. Nobody gives us money. And we're an open party: we don't believe that socialists are the only spokespeople of truth."