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  Number 107 | Junio 1990
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Nicaragua

The Last Word - Tomás Borge

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As a service to our readers, envío prints below excerpts from a speech given given on May 24 by Tomás Borge, Comandante of the Revolution, commemorating the eleventh anniversary of the death in combat of Germán Pomares Ordóñez. He offers thoughts on the possibilities for revolutionary action in Nicaragua today.

Revolution and democracy

You will ask, what's the popular movement's strategy for the medium term? And once the strategy is in place, if we figure it out, what will our tactics be?

I think the first step in identifying the strategy is to have discussions at all levels and between all levels. There are no longer, nor can there be, vertical lines and silent assent that, in practice, asphyxiate criticism. All criticism is valid, but one also has to recognize that hindsight is always 20-20. There is no reason to cry over spilt milk without also conducting a self-criticism and asking oneself, why wasn't there sufficient courage to speak out and criticize at the time?

It’s worth pointing out, as have the Sandinista youth, the invalidity of “I order and you carry out.” We should also, however, not only note our mistakes, but also our achievements. We can overcome styles and forms without denying what we have been and what we have done. Rejecting verticalism does not imply sending it to the defendants bench in every case, because certain circumstances require very agile decision-making.

Democratization is now gaining control, which does not mean the iconoclastic cult that—in addition to the bureaucracy and separation from the masses that made a caricature of revolution instead of a revolution—drove the Eastern European countries in reverse, and not to the perfection of work styles within the framework of revolutionary change. Yes to Democracy, but not to democratism. Democratism can lead to anarchy, resolute ignorance of everything, including successes and achievements.

Leaders should always interpret the will of the base and the people, while not forgetting that, with some frequency, immediate measures must be taken within an agreed-upon tactic linked to the spirit of correctly interpreting popular and partisan wishes.

Voice and vote in the FSLN

Nicaraguans, and Sandinistas in particular, have won the right and have the duty to a voice and a vote. I am not referring to the right and responsibility to vote for government authorities in the electoral process, but rather the right and responsibility to continue having a voice and a vote in their communities, in mass organizations and, now more than ever, in the inner workings of the Frente Sandinista and its youth organization.

It is crucial to regroup forces without sectarianism but with agreement on basic criteria. This requires a definition, or a redefinition if you like, of the content of our Sandinista revolutionary projects. Keeping the essence intact, we must look with a critical spirit at our programmatic platform.

What does it mean to be a revolutionary in these new conditions, both as an individual and as a political collective? Can one be a revolutionary and be uncritical or pessimistic? Can one be a revolutionary and be intransigent? Can one be a revolutionary and be immoral, arrogant, conceited, vacillating, fearful? Can one be a revolutionary while scorning reality, ignoring the correlation of forces, rouging white roses, forgetting the Laws of Historic Development, conforming, going against common sense, which is nothing other than the concrete analysis of reality?

Can one be a revolutionary and not be anti-imperialist? Can one be a revolutionary and not identify with the interests of the poor, workers, peasants, intellectuals overcome with love for the people? ... Can the FSLN be revolutionary without reviewing its styles, its forms of organization, without opting for the democratic spirit in the framework of the revolution?

One of the members of the National Directorate recently asked some of these questions, and went on to answer them. The enemy of the Nicaraguans has been and continues to be imperialism. There is a risk, for each of us, of making ourselves comfortable, that is, of opportunism. We must remain vigilant so we don't fall into the enemy's traps, so we don't back down. He added that a moral renovation of Sandinismo is imperative. Throughout these years of economic crisis, a whole gamut of Sandinistas sacrificed; others of us, an unconcealable minority, to one degree or another became fond of conformity and a contrasting comfort.

Our compañero is right, and I ask the same questions. Each of us has to respond according to our own conscience. The role of the vanguard is to reaffirm the revolutionary ethic. A party is strong to the degree that it successfully confronts a moral test without excuses, without justifications. In Nicaragua's case, this universal maxim is joined by a collective leadership that does not excuse individual responsibility. This accountability has been a significant Sandinista contribution to the international revolutionary movement.

I add: there are few things in this world still as noble as giving one’s life for the liberation of humankind. As long as a society exists in which people grow up with enormous differences marked by selfishness and individualism, the struggle for an equitable society cannot be renounced. A program can emphasize one or another aspect, that differs in the organizational forms of economic and political power in society, but it will only be a revolutionary program in the degree to which it includes the practice, capacity and proposal of unlimited surrender to the struggle for justice and human liberation.

Other questions need to be added to this: Who knows what the future of each of us will be? Will the dark swallows return? What quota of sacrifice is implied in the commitment to popular struggle?

We have to be careful and objective in our analysis, and I would even say dispassionate, without losing either the enthusiasm or the mystique that is the fire that gives us life.

Facing the new government

Will it be necessary to return to violent confrontation, to clandestinity, to prison, to torture and death? As revolutionaries we are willing, as always, to take risks, accept challenges, make sacrifices, whatever is necessary. For now it appears that the conflict will move in another direction: ideological and political struggle and the measuring of popular support, which also implies dangers and challenges. We are not rejecting other possibilities later on, and we must prepare ourselves to confront the challenges with the same boldness as ever.

The issues at play in the future, it seems, will be credibility as well as leadership capacity. To this end, there are various elements to judge: the new government is heterogeneous, with Somocistas, counterrevolutionaries, venomous and ambitious serpents, pro-Yanquis, anti-Somocistas, adversaries of the contras, traditional democrats. A minority, but with significant power, has flashes of independence, a vague conciliatory attitude, and appears not to be oriented toward vengeance, although this remains to be seen. They want Costa Rica-style democracy and, in general, everything indicates that they will opt for coexistence and pacification, even if only for now. But perhaps we shouldn't discard the possibility that this is part of a strategy that will annihilate Sandinismo in the medium run.

This group—known as the Las Palmas group—is subject to enormous pressures with traditional objectives and independent of coincidences, flirtations and common denominators: the Yanquis, the contras, and the radicalism of backward sectors anxious to destroy all vestiges of revolution and establish a political regime more oppressive than Somocismo, more like Pinochet, and perhaps a little worse. They are cavemen and fascists. They support the contras, and hope that the US will stop barking and will bite, as it did in Panama and Grenada, and form a police force willing to slit throats and divorce itself from the people.

On the other hand there is a revolutionary party that is, without a doubt, the largest and most powerful party, in terms of quantity, in the capitalist world.... I refer, of course, to the Sandinista National Liberation Front.

The formidable strength of the FSLN, used in measure, explains the results of the recent spontaneous strike, as well as the attitude, still not clear, assumed in relation to university autonomy.... The current layoffs are a coarse and crude political reprisal and a visceral, base response.

It's worth reflecting on this and other contradictions that affect society as a whole. This appears to be the best moment for the new government to try to damage the revolution. In the recent elections, the majority voted for the opposition alliance, although not for its political project. The FSLN is the strongest force and has a dynamic leadership in full political and ideological agreement, but has not sufficiently regrouped its popular base and has yet to define its organic levels or profiles. We're still hurting and barely beginning to reestablish stability or emerge from our astonishment.

It’s obvious that, because of this, the government is promoting mini-crises, which could get out of hand—though that’s not in its plans—with the goal of wearing us down and putting in place strategic reforms that deny, change or minimize revolutionary gains. Without running away from confrontation in real situations—above all those that try to break our back—we should avoid, when possible, the trap of immediate and unproductive confrontation. It is said that the worst strategist is one who fights all battles at once, without concentrating the forces to combat the adversary’s intentions one by one. On the other hand, blind bashing is the clumsiness of a government that, trying to surprise and weaken us, is accelerating the decomposition of its own credibility.

Despite these temporary disadvantages, which gave rise to spontaneity and brought immediate demands to the forefront, we saw clear signs of our energy and perspectives. This is what the most influential, realistic sector of the new government also understands. Other sectors called for a total confrontation, which would have had unforeseeable and surely dramatic consequences.

A military coup is not an option

One of these consequences would not have been a military coup to overthrow the Chamorro government. I'm going to explain what I mean because there must be some who think this is an option within our strategy.

The armies of almost every country, especially in Latin America, were created to put down popular discontent... and, in some cases, the guerrilla movements that sprouted up, particularly after the Cuban revolution.... They are repressive armies and police against their own people, and are underhanded adversaries of their respective governments.... They are, in general, useless, spendthrift, arrogant birds of prey, blood thirsty and in search of military coups. This is especially true now that there are no risks of inter-regional wars and, of course, their countries are not threatened by invasion from foreign powers.

This is not the case in Nicaragua. There is not the slightest possibility of a military coup because this would go against our principles and our commitments. It would mean civil war; it would mean isolating Nicaragua and winning only general repudiation. A military coup is not logical, intelligent, rational or possible. It is different, however, to deny the people their right to protest in the streets and change the 41% [who voted for the FSLN] into 80%.

If the Sandinista Popular Army (EPS) is not the same as other armies, why does it exist? If its role in life is not to invade another country, or repress the people, or overthrow governments, what is the EPS for? It's simple: to defend national sovereignty. This cannot be questioned, because our army is above all a national army.

While no other country on the Latin American continent has been threatened with invasion, Nicaragua was, and continues to be, threatened by outside aggression. It was, and still is, the object of aggression through a mercenary force financed, organized, trained and run by the US government.

Our army is, therefore, the guardian of a sovereignty that has been and continues to be threatened by a foreign power. If the Sandinista army ultimately defended the Sandinista government, why wasn't there a coup d'état after the elections? There was not, and there will not be, because it is a national army, because it is loyal to the country, to the law and to its commanders, independent of the political sympathies of the majority of those who make up its forces, whose only option is to vote for the party of its preference.

The concern should be the contras, not the police

And the police? It is no secret that, apart from its few blemishes, the police force was created as a professional organization with no symptoms of repression. It was educated to maintain order, making rational and civilized use of its technical capacity. This was demonstrated during the recent strike. When ordered to permit some functionaries to enter their offices, the Sandinista Police obeyed without abusing their possibilities. 1 know very well that when they threw tear gas, perhaps unnecessarily, the victims cried due to the effect of the gas, but the police also cried, for different reasons, behind their masks.

It is therefore a National Police. Some, it is clear, don't want a national police and insist on another police to preserve order, after the police have been very efficient—much more than others—in preserving order and solving crimes.... Those people want to corner the police; if they defend themselves from attack, that's bad (apart from it being correct to investigate any abuse of authority) and if they aren't repressive, that's bad. The essential thing, for some, is that the current police force is intolerable because it is not a gang of murderers. It is not as “democratic” as other police forces that set up machine guns to sweep crowds and murder children.

All this means that neither the government nor anyone else has reason to worry about the role of the army and the police; but that they should worry about the counterrevolution, a mercenary military force that has no justification for refusing to fulfill its own agreements with the government whose election they backed.... This doesn't mean that they shouldn't be given a reasonable way out.

If the Sandinista Popular Army and the Sandinista Police are national forces, the contras are an anti-national force. They do not obey the current government or Nicaraguan interests. Independent of this, and I insist, it is prudent and advisable to resolve those demands of peasants who joined the contras that fall within the framework of the agreements.

A military force controlled by a foreign government can coincide, in a given moment, with the interests of a political group, but it is logical in the medium term that that force may escape all control and even become a boomerang. It could happen—to those who have illusions of converting the contras into their own tool—that the sword they think of plunging into the breast of the revolution may actually turn into a harakiri sword. To create a threat is bad enough, but to lose control of it is senseless and unforgivable. This doesn't mean refining control methods but rather eliminating the danger or expecting the consequences.

The counterrevolution is not a Sandinista issue; it affects the entire nation. The counterrevolution is illegal, and, by its nature, anti-Nicaraguan, since it obeys a foreign power, as do those who aim to establish a vengeful and anti-popular regime. If the latter were to achieve their goals, the bloodshed would take with it not just Sandinistas but all those who oppose their designs, including many in the new government…

Now is the time, on the other hand, to overcome the “Esquipulas syndrome.” Esquipulas was the correct alternative at that time, but that chapter should have closed with contra demobilization and with the full compliance of the other signatory countries before the electoral process culminated. We have no more concessions to make; we fulfilled all our agreements, including moving up the elections with a gun to our heads. To the surprise of many and the respect of all, we accepted the results. We also accepted postponing contra demobilization until June 10, even though important world leaders—and I don't mean Gorbachev or Fidel—thought we should not hand over power without the prior demobilization of the contras. What more do they want? Any more would be to hand over every last red and black flag. Let it be said once and for all: before they destroy our flags, the earth will be stained with our blood. They would have to kill us first! This decision invites us to reflect, since everything in this life has its cost.

Developing a strategy

New crises approach Nicaragua like ghosts. We must avoid their resolution through bloodshed. For this reason it is essential to shore up contra demobilization and firmly discourage any invasionist intentions. What serves as this discouragement is our determination to defend the land where we have deposited the bones and the dreams of our heroes, the banner’s glory of this land that will be unconquerable because we, children of Sandino, brothers of Carlos Fonseca, have decided it.

This crisis also comes from other sources: anti-popular measures, the absence of response to the difficult economic situation originating from causes beyond Nicaraguans' control. Yanqui stinginess will clearly not contribute to relieving this illness aggravated by the crudeness of the new government's economic hierarchy, who will pay with interest for their complicity, when they were the opposition, with the US government's aggressive policy against the Nicaraguan revolution.

All that I have said reaffirms that popular struggles and the necessary search for a plausible and sweeping majority is passing through an impassioned, multiple and original ideological and political confrontation.

To emerge victorious—and I return to my original idea—we must develop a strategy that is the fruit of collective thought. Tactics must be adjusted to that strategy. For now I’ll share some still unfinished preliminary statements; this is not the final point of a discussion, nor even close, but personal criteria that came out of discussions:

*To reaffirm the popular, anti-imperialist and non-aligned character of the Sandinista Popular Revolution.

*To regroup and consolidate our forces through democratic discussion and within the framework of party discipline.
*To initiate an open democratization of the organization through which the base can elect zonal, regional and national leaders directly, secretly and by making use of constructive criticism of their leaders.
*To promote internal unity not just in the National Directorate but also in the revolutionary structures at all levels. To emphasize experience the source of wisdom—of each and every one of the members of the National Directorate and other revolutionary leaders.
*To reaffirm the collective character of the National Directorate—that it be able to multiply, and to hear with humility the unrestrained voices of revolutionaries and the whole population.
*To open the windows and let air in, so that the best children can accede to selected militancy and to mass affiliation with the organized universe of the revolution.
*To eliminate all symptoms of sectarianism, arrogance and messianism.
*To fully strengthen the revolutionary mystique, marginalizing all traces of opulence, without falling into “egalitarianism” and abandoning the security systems that protect the lives of threatened leaders.
*To demonstrate the moral quality of our leaders and militants.
*To improve our ways of going to the people to detect their desires, problems, demands, recommendations and claims.
*To develop long, medium and short-range action plans that include reorganization, recovery of our party influence and wealth of answers for every foreseeable situation.
*To respect, without falling into dogmatism, our original character, without ties to or influences from any tendency that could disfigure our image, our way of being and our example of independence, our revolutionary profile. To this effect, not to make strategic decisions without the consensus of the base.
*To promote international work that includes our best relations with revolutionary movements, with parties of different ideologies, and the greatest contact possible with governments, and women’s, union and cultural organizations.
*To recover the government through elections.
*To maximize use of the media to orient, spread the word and fight, appealing to truth in all cases and situations, to criticism and self-criticism and to the diversity of criteria within ideological and strategic homogeneity.
*To support the government's positive steps without intransigent opposition at all times and under all circumstances, without impairing a firm and unwavering opposition to any measure intended to destroy [revolutionary] achievements and all that affects popular interests; to propose our own solutions, improved through thought and experience, to avoid falling into a defensiveness implicit in a limited policy of simply being the opposition.
*Although there is no possibility of collaborationism with the new government and there are no respectable and developed parties besides the FSLN on the political map, we cannot discard the possibility of future domestic alliances.
*To raise high the banners of Sandinistas' heroism and sacrifice; to be willing, following that example, to undertake the most difficult effort, to return to poverty, to danger if necessary.

Allow me to pray, that is to say, to kneel before his memory, to Germán Pomares, our brother of so many causeways, shipwrecks, victories, words and shared scars.

Allow me to say to Germancito, son of Danto [antelope]—and of the glorious gazelle, fallen in popular combat, Julia Herrera—and now my beloved [adopted] son, that we will be worthy of the sweat and blood of your parents, which ran generously, an unstoppable river, red roses watching, drumroll of antelope and gazelles in the heart of the mountains, lion's roar and the zenzontle bird's song amidst the fog, and now very near the sunrise—a sun now so paled by the courage and the dignity that if it has hidden its face with a scarf it is only to rise again, stripped of shadows, in the next dawn.

For Germán, for Julia, for all of the fallen, we say once again:

Long live our immortal Heroes'
Long live the Sandinista National
Liberation Front!
Free homeland or death!

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