A reading of the elections
All parties were measuring their strength
in the March 11 legislative/municipal elections,
as they gear up for the presidential race in 2014.
The FMLN suffered a serious reversal
in the Metropolitan Area of San Salvador,
after having won the presidency in 2009.
If it wants to repeat its earlier performance,
it will have to “read” these results accurately.
Legislative and municipal elections have a low profile in El Salvador, given that the country is governed by a constitutionally presidentialist tradition that eclipses the rest of the government. The enthusiasm in the legislative and municipal elections of March 11 mainly came from the activists of the participating parties and didn’t trickle down much to the population, which finds it hard to see any clear relationship between these electoral results and daily life.
The elections were hugely important for the contending parties, however, as they were measuring their strength on the electoral playing field with an eye on the presidential dispute in 2014. In 2009, when the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) won the presidency, it suddenly became the main political force in the country and began reducing the Right’s power in all the institutional fields. Since then, El Salvador has swung between advances and setbacks for both the grassroots sectors and the dominant class. For the population that longed for a short, direct and sustained drive toward “change” with the FMLN’s victory, this seesawing has been a frustration that has now dulled the shine of the 2009 triumph.
The legislative resultsThe 84 Legislative Assembly seats were distributed as follows:
33 Nationalist Republic Alliance (ARENA)
11 Grand Alliance for National Unity (GANA)
7 National Coalition (CN), formerly the Party of National Conciliation (PCN)
1 Party of Hope (PES), formerly the Christian Democratic Party (PDC)
1 Democratic Change (CD)
This brought about only a slight change in the parliamentary composition resulting from the 2009 elections, which was:
That 2009 composition soon changed, however. The major variable was the emergence of a new party, GANA, in a split from ARENA. Although it didn’t get its legal status until January 2010, so couldn’t run in the 2009 elections, it quickly pulled 13 representatives away from ARENA and 3 from the PDC, giving it an unelected bench of 16 members. In addition, one of the PCN’s 11 left to declare himself “independent.”
The municipal resultsAt the municipal level, while the election in San Fernando, Morazán, will have to be repeated due to a tie between ARENA and GANA, the rest of the country’s 262 mayoral seats were distributed as follows:
95 FMLN (8 in a coalition with CD and 2 with PES)
26 CN (3 in coalition with PES)
17 GANA (1 in coalition with PES)
Here as well, the numerical difference from the 2009 results is minimal. That year ARENA won 112 mayoral seats, the FMLN 96 (22 in coalition), the PCN 33, the PDC 9 and the CD 2.
The votesThe potential voter universe in Salvador is 4,679,069 people. Only 50.6% of that number showed up to vote on Sunday, March 11.
How were those votes distributed? It’s easier to measure percentages in the legislative race, which gives national results. ARENA won 39.8% of those votes, the FMLN 36.7%, GANA 9.6%, CN 7.2%, PES 2.7% and CD 2.1%. The remaining 1.9% was shared by the Popular Party, the Liberal National Party and four independent candidates.
ARENA increased its votes by 42,888 over 2009, a 5% rise. The FMLN lost 116,414 votes, for a 12% drop. GANA got 217, 447 votes in this its first election, making it the third electoral force. The CN, which had to re-register under a new name because it didn’t pull enough votes in 2009 to keep its legal status as the old PCN, lost 31,542 votes and the old PDC, now the PES for the same reason, was the biggest loser, with a drop of 91,882 votes.
The polarizationThe first conclusions are obvious. El Salvador is still a politically polarized country, and is also polarized between haves and have-nots, with an above-average Gini coefficient, which indicates inequality. However much some parties would like to promote a center-right or center-left model, and however much the US Embassy might support such efforts, as happened with the Democratic Party, the Renovation Movement, this century’s incarnation of the Democratic Revolutionary Front (FDR) and now GANA, whose leaders were already in talks with US Charge d’Affaires Roberto Blau six months before it officially formed as a party, the FMLN and ARENA still split more than 75% of the total number of votes between them.
Another conclusion is that the initiative of including non-party candidates on the electoral menu didn’t particularly appeal to voters. In 2010, the Constitutional Bench voted in favor of a suit filed on that issue by Félix Ulloa, director of the Institute of Legal Studies of El Salvador (IEJES). It has just been learned in a meeting of national private enterprise that he was backed by NGOs allied to the National Private Enterprise Association (ANEP) in the Alliance for Democracy. Those NGOs, now led by the Social Initiative for Democracy, the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic Development (FUSADES) and the National Foundation for Development (FUNDE), called non-party candidacies a “way to return to the people the honor of being sovereign.” But the Salvadoran population seems not to have perceived that honor, as the four non-party candidates shared only 0.6% of the votes among them.
Abstention growsOne figure worth taking into account is the growing abstention rate. In the best of times, participation in municipal and legislative elections seldom reaches 55% of the registered voters. In recent years the exception was 2009, with all the enthusiasm generated by the presidential elections, held only five days later. But even then, only 54.1% of the voters went to the polls for the municipal and legislative elections.
This year, it was only 49.4%, even fewer than the 52.6% that turned out for the 2006 municipal and legislative elections. Perhaps only coincidentally, the distance between the votes for FMLN and ARENA legislators was almost identical: only 3.1%.
The metropolitan areas voted Although the FMLN has kept roughly the same number of mayoral seats, the municipalities it won are much less important politically and demographically than those it lost. The strongest blow to the FMLN was in San Salvador’s Metropolitan Area, made up of 14 municipal governments and home to 27% of the Salvadoran population. The FMLN won 12 of those 14 mayoral seats in 2009, excluding Antiguo Cuscatlán, a traditional ARENA bastion, and the capital, San Salvador itself, which it lost that year after having governed there for 12 consecutive years.
less for the FMLN this time
This time around, the FMLN lost important mayoral seats it had held since 1997: Soyapango, Mejicanos, Ayutuxtepeque, Ilopango and Apopa. The FMLN only held onto the three Metropolitan Area municipalities of Cuscatancingo, Ciudad Delgado and Santa Tecla, although it retook a fourth, Nejapa, which it had lost in 2006.
ARENA will now govern more than 52% of the Salvadoran population at a municipal level, including the populations of eight departmental capitals. For the first time in its electoral history, the FMLN’s municipal vote level dropped from previous elections. In this regard, there are no doubts about the reversal the FMLN suffered in these elections.
The reasonsIt’s equally obvious that this reversal doesn’t mean “the beginning of the end of the FMLN,” as Facundo Guardado, former FMLN leader and founder of the short-lived Renovation Movement, predicted in El Diario de Hoy. As commentator Alirio Montoya said, statements such as Guardado’s sound like the famous “end of history” prophesied by the neoliberal Francis Fukuyama at the start of the nineties, with the collapse of “real socialism.” In his mistaken perspective, neoliberalism would impose itself on all other ideologies in the eternal reign of capitalism. Yet less than ten years later, the Bolivarian Revolution occurred in Venezuela, followed by the emergence of anti-capitalist governments in Bolivia and Ecuador, and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America (ALBA) began to be built. With that alone, Fukuyama’s prediction went up in smoke.
Nonetheless, the roots of this setback must be sought, evaluated and analyzed, beyond the cathartic accusations that are still the order of the day, and beyond the ill will and the temptation to blame one individual or another, or whole party bodies, such as certain municipal structures or even the FMLN Political Commission. What need to be understood are all the reasons—some of them structural and some superficial, some internal and some external—why the top political force in the country has taken two steps back in its process of accumulating political strength.
What effect did Funes have?In the run-up to the 2009 elections, the term “Funes effect” began to be used to describe the advantages of the electoral alliance the FMLN had made with its presidential candidate, journalist Mauricio Funes. Given his charismatic personality and his distance from the country’s traditional socialist project, it was felt that Funes could attract the undecided vote, as well as give the middle strata and a sector of the bourgeoisie a sense of confidence, convincing them that the changes promised by the slogan “Hope is born… change is coming” wouldn’t run deep or threaten the little wellbeing they were enjoying. The changes would merely bring improvements and abundance for all without affecting anyone’s interests.
After two and a half years, there are still those who defend that idea. The digital newspaper Contrapunto published an article titled “FMLN defeated without the Funes effect,” in which its author seems to be echoing that position. It concludes that the March electoral results show that the FMLN’s best cards have no strength without a “moderate balance” that can tone down the leftist party’s bright red.
A CID-Gallup poll published in December 2011 showed President Funes with a 70% acceptance rate, three points more than when he took office in 2009, although 17 points below the acceptance he enjoyed in October 2009, after four months in the presidential office. The Contrapunto article states that “the distance the FMLN was determined to exhibit with respect to the President restricted its flow of votes.”
Another analysis, however, questions whether “the Funes effect” has actually benefited the FMLN in these two and a half years. The Funes government’s capacity to generate “change” in the midst of such a severe international crisis has imposed serious limitations on him, while his closeness to sectors of the Salvadoran bourgeoisie and the United States has called into question even his willingness to make changes.
Funes and the middle strataIs it true that the middle strata need Mauricio Funes to feel secure, or do they really need something more? Answering this question first requires a clearer idea of the weight these strata currently have in El Salvador. According to a 2007 study by Equipo Maíz titled “The social composition of El Salvador,” the middle sectors—which consist of self-employed workers, state employees and people who work for churches, communities and NGOs—contain a total of 769,484 people, or 13.4% of the Salvadoran population.
The FMLN leadership doesn’t think the government has done much to acknowledge the vote of the middle strata that voted for the FMLN in 2009. The social projects Funes has promoted, such as abolition of the “voluntary fee”—which isn’t at all voluntary—in the health units, the school packets that ensure uniforms and notebooks for public school students, and the glass of milk for these same students, don’t have any impact in the private schools or private medical clinics where the middle sectors tend to go. The credits for peasants, the literacy projects, the issuing of land titles and the pensions for the elderly are also benefits that don’t get to the middle strata.
The government’s social programs have correctly targeted the neediest population to palliate the consequences of the neoliberal model, which still prevails in the country. But the consequences of that model haven’t been paid only by the most vulnerable grassroots sectors; to a greater or lesser degree they have affected all but the wealthiest sectors. Everyone has been hit by the rise in the prices of fuel, the basic market basket and basic services and by the deterioration of salaries. The targeting of subsidies has meant important savings for the government, and in the case of gas succeeded in halting the abuse of that product by contrabandists. Be that as it may, however, the remedy has been more painful than the illness for most small businesses, owners of cheap eating establishments, tortilla-making operations and the like.
Analyzing the government’s few benefits for the middle strata, the FMLN pushed through legislation such as cutting the fixed telephone rate and reducing interests on credit cards. But President Funes vetoed those legal initiatives, and his own fiscal proposal did nothing to alleviate the situation of the middle sectors. Finally, negotiations between the FMLN and the executive branch extended the tax reform benefits to people earning between $530 and $6,200 a month, but went into effect too late to have any effect on the March elections.
All of this has very likely weighed on the electoral results, given that the majority of the middle strata live in the Metropolitan Area of San Salvador and other urban centers. The geographic distribution of the electoral loss fits this hypothesis, given that 84% of the votes lost by the FMLN were in the department of San Salvador, 24,000 of them in the capital itself.
Even so, one must be careful with numbers. Although the middle strata represent 13.7% of the national population, with the majority concentrated in San Salvador, and although there was only a 3.1% difference between votes for ARENA and for the FMLN at a national level, the majority population in municipalities such as Soyapango, Ilopango, Mejicanos, Apopa and Ayutuxtepeque is working class, not middle class. Taking this into account, it would have to be concluded that grassroots sectors as well as the middle strata have failed to feel the changes expected with the Funes government.
Surely the expected changes have to do with both the reality and the interests of each population sector. According to a poll by the Central American University’s Public Opinion Institute, which evaluated two years of the Funes government, these changes have to do with the cost of living, crime, unemployment and the high cost of fuel.
Job generationThe campaign promise that has been fulfilled least in these two years, according to the poll, is that of job generation. It’s a very hard promise to keep in a country in which both national and foreign private enterprise stopped investing some years ago. Between 2001, the year of the dollarization, and 2007, El Salvador’s big business class sent some US$13 billion out of the country, both to invest in other countries, particularly other Central American ones, and to open or fatten bank deposits abroad.
Foreign investment didn’t grow either, because the domestic market is showing no growth, largely because private enterprise has squelched even the most minimal measures to redistribute wealth, which would have generated greater purchasing power and increased the domestic market. Nor is it realistic to think that public investment could rectify unemployment and underemployment in a country where tax evasion exceeds US$1 billion a year and business executives fiercely oppose a tax reform, fighting tooth and nail against even the tiniest changes in the existing tax system.
CrimeThe issue of crime and security in El Salvador is obviously closely related to the United States, in part because it’s linked to drug trafficking, which goes from south to north, and to both arms sales and trafficking in dollars, both of which go from north to south. In short, these dynamics of capitalist accumulation respond to a continental logic from which it is difficult to abstract El Salvador.
The most relevant expression of US interference in El Salvador has been the recent removal of FMLN members from important posts in the security Cabinet and their replacement by military officers. The latter are airing a “war on gangs” discourse and promoting increased militarization measures in the field of public security.
The now famous truce among the gangs, which has supposedly generated a sudden drop in homicide figures, came about in this context, and only a week after the electoral results. This “coincidence” gives serious food for thought in a country where gangs aren’t the ones responsible for most of the country’s homicides, according to the 2000-2011 statistics, making it very curious that a truce among them could have triggered such a drastic decline in homicide rates. Moreover, increased homicides have been a constant in electoral periods ever since the signing of the Peace Accords in 1992, which suggests that the “truce” is only the other side of the same coin… or of the same tall tale.
Expected radical changes never cameLeftist militants and sympathizers expected more radical changes from the Funes government, despite being aware that the FMLN-backed government program was little more than a reformist proposal.
They expected El Salvador to join the group of Latin American nations that have defied the United States and begun to weave together creative integration mechanisms in recent years. They expected the executive branch to move closer to the ALBA countries and bring El Salvador into the Petrocaribe project. Many Salvadorans celebrated establishing relations with Cuba, imagining that it was a precursor of El Salvador’s integration into the new Latin American anti-imperialist bloc.
They expected a more harmonious relationship between Funes and the FMLN, even knowing that they were two political projects that coincided in their immediate aspects but were very different over the longer haul. They expected the President to be more respectful of the FMLN and its authorities rather than continually disparaging it in the media and repeating that “I’m the President here.” That posture undermined the FMLN leaders’ prestige, as in the case of Gerson Martínez and Salvador Sánchez Ceren and the FMLN’s socialist project, which the President referred to as an “ideological line from which we must distance ourselves.”
They expected Funes’ Labor Ministry to prioritize working class interests and not those of the bosses, his International Relations Ministry to be less servile to US interests and his Environment Ministry to be stalwart in the struggle against the mining industry.
Roberto Lorenzana, the FMLN’s official spokesperson, timidly addressed these frustrations in the days after the elections. “It was the FMLN that made the decision to name its presidential candidate. Therefore, we’re responsible for that decision and we knew the risks we were running. That doesn’t mean absolving Funes of the results, but rather assuming with responsible criteria what adjustments must be made on the issue of public policies.” Lorenzana explained that the March 11 elections marked a “before and after” in the FMLN’s relations with Funes.
The political and the electoral The optimists are saying that the electoral loss is a good opportunity for the FMLN to make revisions before the 2014 elections. What would be the most controversial issues of such a revision?
don’t always go together
In his 2005 essay, “The FMLN and the validity of revolutionary thought in El Salvador,” Schafik Handal, the FMLN’s historical leader, reviewed the party of the nineties in light of its historic mission. At that time he said, “We put down our weapons and converted ourselves into a legal party to participate actively in the political struggle, thus entering into the system with the decision to maintain a persistent struggle to complete the unfinished democratic revolution, aimed at changing the system, ensuring social development over a more or less lasting course toward a socialist society…. We entered the system to change it, not so the system would change us.”
At that time, Handal again distanced himself from the claim that it’s impossible to change the system from within, using the system’s own rules. The examples of the Popular Unity in Chile and of the young Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela reaffirmed his idea that one didn’t have to discard the electoral path to taking power within the system and then begin transforming it. At the same time, however, Handal recognized that this strategy carried enormous risks and required all possible care to ensure that “it is we who change the system, not the system that changes us.”
The first reversalIn that essay, Handal recounted how the FMLN suffered a first reversal regarding its mission in the nineties, upon becoming an electoral party. “Languages, concepts and categories corresponding to the in-vogue thinking of neoliberal and globalizing capitalism began to appear within the FMLN. By the end of 1994, it resulted in the crisis created by Joaquín Villalobos, which led to him leave the FMLN and create the short-lived Democratic Party. That party signed the San Andrés pact with the ARENA government to help ARENA increase the IVA [value-added tax] from 10% to 13% and frustrate the electoral system reform to which it was committed with the United Nations, upon reaching the second round of the presidential elections that year.”
He continued: “As the form of political struggle to get into government is done through elections, without much debate, the idea caught on that we would have to be, as it was phrased at the time, more a mass party than a cadre party…. ‘If we want more votes, we have to have more members,’ which was a way of prioritizing quantity and justifying the lack of effort in ideological and political education and the scorn for quality.”
“Democracy”Balancing the political with the electoral and “democratic” ideals with “revolutionary” ideals has been a constant struggle for the FMLN. As Handal put it, “democracy” was the argument for bringing a huge number of people into the party who didn’t share its revolutionary mission and were recruited to correlate with a project that wouldn’t threaten the bourgeoisie. For years, anyone who opposed this flawed practice earned the title of “anti-democratic,” a bias that has stuck up to now.
The Statutes didn’t regulate the entry process. Says Handal: “This opened up a simple entry mechanism : all one had to do was sign a little paper with one’s name, ID card number, voting card number, address and an endorsement by two affiliates [who may themselves have joined only 15 minutes earlier]. The affiliation was consummated by signing that little piece of paper. No one needed to approve it; one was entered into the registry of party affiliates just by signing the little piece of paper. And that affiliation was the only requisite to be a party leader.”
He added that “the party then took that superficial concept of ‘democratization’ even further. Without approving any other criterion of capacity or political and moral solvency for aspirants, it was established that all party directive posts at all levels—from the municipal to the national—and all candidates for public posts—from those for municipal councilor, mayor, legislative candidates and their alternates, etc., all the way to candidates for President and Vice President of the Republic—must be decided by the direct and secret election of all affiliates.”
The antidotesIn the name of democracy, the crassest mechanisms of bourgeois democracy were used: extortion, clientelism and manipulation. In this environment, interest groups were strengthened and personal and group aspirations were given the green light.
Obviously people with a revolutionary consciousness, honest people with a mystique and a desire to struggle also joined the FMLN and made an effort to form themselves politically despite how little the party did to help them do so. But the malady was already festering within and even the Right exploited the situation, offering more and more privileges and perks to see which FMLN public officials were for sale.
In the last years of his life, Handal tried to beef up mechanisms and processes that could work as antidotes to these errors. In 2010, four years after his death, a cleansing of the FMLN membership list reduced it from 90,000 to 30,000 affiliates. That process, whose public controversy was a succulent tidbit for the rightwing media, brought the malaise within the party to the surface. Although it sought to extirpate the most petty-minded practices of the “democratist” process from the FMLN, the mechanism was contaminated by many of the same symptoms.
Was the remedy worse than the illness? It’s hard to know, but there’s no question about its consequences in the electoral field. In many municipalities, especially in the Metropolitan Area, the difference between the winning candidate and the runner-up was less than 500 votes. The former FMLN members who stayed home rather than go vote would probably have made the difference.
The candidate selection for public posts, especially for mayors and Municipal Council members, had the same impact. As a fruit of his reflection, Handal concluded in his 2005 essay that “it’s necessary to differentiate between elections to public posts and internal elections. In the former, we would actually be strengthened, because we would be obliged to go out to the people, which is the principal line. In the internal elections, in contrast, we go deeper inside.”
The divisions The direct internal elections turned out to be politically erosive. Outside the party, the mass media used them to air the FMLN’s “dirty laundry” again and again, disparaging the party, its candidates and its strategy for public elections. Within, the erosion affected party unity.
The FMLN’s national convention in 2005 eliminated that mechanism, replacing it with a less formal and more private municipal and departmental consultation process prior to the Political Commission’s ratification of the candidates.
It was through that process that Mauricio Funes was chosen as the FMLN’s presidential candidate in 2009 and that its mayoral candidates were elected in 2012. But in many municipalities the party ended up divided between the militants and affiliates who supported the chosen candidate and those left dissatisfied and complaining about “imposition.” In some municipalities, those who were dissatisfied outnumbered the others, creating the sensation that “the leadership doesn’t listen.”
Although the majority of the municipalities sooner or later closed ranks to campaign for the chosen candidate, that discontent unquestionably affected these elections. In three of the San Salvador Metropolitan Area’s most important municipalities, the FMLN won the legislative race but lost the municipal one, suggesting that militants who opposed the election or reelection of certain candidates had been right to do so. Again, the antidote to the disease of “democratism” didn’t produce good electoral results.
Links to the peopleFurther on in his essay, Handal revealed another symptom of the electoral hazard afflicting the FMLN in that period. “Our greater distancing from the people and their problems are a product of these tainted and frequent party elections. We’re almost always immersed in one of them for four to six months, during which the militancy and its leaders are absorbed in internal confrontations, which the rightwing media eat up. We stop listening to the people, and abandon both drafting proposals and social organizing and mobilizing to deal with the problematic the population is suffering.”
Handal insisted that the grassroots committees, the FMLN’s first-tier structure in the communities, are the most organic way of being inserted into the population and the most appropriate way to ensure communication between the population and the party leadership structures. Although those committees multiplied in number after 2000, they’ve had a limited ability to accumulate politically by acting as basic cells of a national organization, attracting, mobilizing and shaping potential militants,. House-to-house visits have been defined as the communication mechanism “par excellence” of the grassroots committees and during this recent electoral campaign, FMLN militants knocked on 750,000 doors. In most cases, however, they couldn’t convince those they visited that their presence was due to anything more than the “need to win a vote.”
This mechanism, which is supposed to show the FMLN’s “presence” on the ground, will never be able to guarantee the kind of communication ensured by a chat over a good cup of coffee, joint work or participation in a community activity. The trust needed for people to say what they really feel and think, and vice versa, can’t be built in such short and infrequent visits. As Handal said, “A quick visit isn’t the same as going to people when there’s a problem and saying to them: ‘Look, we have this problem, let’s discuss what we can do…’ and then letting them participate in making those decisions.”
Besides, the population demanded that the ones they wanted to see on the ground weren’t only grassroots affiliates and activists, but also mayors and legislators, and not only when they were in search of votes.
The FMLN’s organizational consolidation process is still ahead of it, as Handal pointed out at the time. The party’s “links to the people” still aren’t rooted and it isn’t taking advantage of the media accumulation it achieved during the war years.
The concept of communication with the people must go beyond just providing information. Communicating has to do with sharing feelings, beliefs, values and visions of the world to integrate them into genuine consciousness-raising processes.
Education Another proposal by Handal to improve the FMLN’s quality and overcome the electioneering malaise was to “implement a system of political and ideological education, of formation regarding the national problematic and our purposes, and to promote an in-depth debate within the party to reach a common vision of what we’re doing and what we want to do and to awaken the critical and self-critical capacity of both the militancy and the leadership with respect to carrying out our mission effectively.”
His critique didn’t seek to drive away potential militants, but to form them to encourage greater commitment to the party mission, an improved ability to debate and an increased capacity to strengthen the FMLN’s strategies of struggle. To that end, the Farabundo Martí School of Political-Ideological Formation was founded in 2004 and the 2009 National Convention resolved to make participation in political formation programs obligatory for any member who runs for public office.
Despite these efforts, however, this obligation hasn’t been achieved yet and the strategy and practice of political formation remains to be strengthened.
The processes The FMLN isn’t the only one that should review what it did and didn’t do to contribute to the results it got in the recent elections. The grassroots movement organizations that share the revolutionary proposal and are counting on constructing a more just power also ought to evaluate their role. In particular, the movements allied to the FMLN need to review their organizational, mobilizing and political formation strategies.
With centuries of experience in resistance and construction of change, Salvadorans know these processes aren’t quick and that there’s no straight line to victory. They are very familiar with experiencing progress, stagnation and even severe setbacks.
The urgency to learn from both the errors and the correct decisions and actions stems from the fact that the presidential elections are only 20 months away. But it must also be understood that the FMLN’s mission goes beyond electoral races, and that its capacity to fulfill that mission goes well beyond any electoral victory.
Realism Is it realistic to think the FMLN can win the presidency again in 2014? Is it realistic to think the internal evaluations by leftist forces will bear fruit in the short, medium and long run? Is it realistic to think the socialist transformation is close enough to ensure a real change for society?
Again, Schafik Handal’s words are still relevant for the road ahead: “For revolutionaries, realism responds to another concept: to learn and study reality in order to change it, not to submit to it. Viability doesn’t have to do with sacrificing principles and mission, but with knowing how to define and apply strategies of organization and struggle that take us to higher levels of consciousness, of mobilizing people, of alliances, of accumulation and of tipping the correlation of forces in our favor in order to achieve that change.”
Elaine Freedman, a grassroots educator, is the envío correspondent in El Salvador.