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On 9/5/2018 11:23 AM, John Reimann via Marxism wrote:

I think socialists really need to reflect on the direction the colonial
revolution has taken over the years, because Ortega is not some lone

How has the colonial revolution degenerated so much? Isn't what we're
seeing visible proof of the theory of permanent revolution? After all, the
leadership of none of these revolutions linked the colonial revolution with
the overthrow of capitalism itself.

I don't think the Nicaraguan revolution "degenerated" at all. It was defeated, destroyed. Crushed. Drowned in blood and I believe that had been consummated before the election of Mrs Chamorro.

In the year 2000 I wrote a very long post on this list going over my experiences in Nicaragua where I lived for several years. About a year ago I put it on my blog and it is here: http://hatueysashes.blogspot.com/2017/01/from-archives-how-1980s-sandinista.html

Rereading it now, there are a couple of things I remember saying in other posts from that time. Mainly that there simply was no basis in Nicaragua for what they were trying to do economically and socially, though I'm not sure I put it that baldly. The policy of pressured collectivization ("forced" would be an exaggeration) was a conscious choice with the idea that this would smooth their transition to a planned economy, and that the social programs and economic benefits would help them sell it. Wheelock seemed to be totally committed to it.

This affected not just the worker-peasant alliance but the "worker-worker alliance." A lot of workers viewed themselves as displaced small farmers and what they wanted was land and to be left alone on their little homestead.

I'll repeat what I said in my post from 18 years ago: in four years I was in Nicaragua I never met a single peasant who had gotten  land to work on his own account from the revolution. On the contrary, I saw the FSLN oppose movements by agricultural workers to break up cotton estates and distribute them for their families to work individually. And I was on  the lookout because Mike Baumann and Jane Harris, who preceded me and my companion as Militant correspondents there, made a point of telling me that had been their experience.

In 1986 or 1987 the government did make a show of handing out land titles but to people who had long worked their parcels on the agricultural frontier and to people on state farms (technically turning them into cooperatives, a distinction  without a difference).  It did not change things internally, it was mostly paper. Although I do think it is true that it showed the FSLN leadership had realized the problem with the agrarian reform, and was beginning to change course.

As for the rest of their economic and social programs, they required a lot of resources from  abroad that was increasingly withheld. The one resource they did have was Cuba, but it could offer mostly personnel, and Nicaragua had decided to forgo the aid of Cuban civilians (like teachers and doctors) after the Grenada invasion. In part the reason was that they could not be armed, but with the war spreading, they were sitting ducks.

But of course that hit programs in the countryside especially hard because the Cubans were willing to go places the government  had a very hard time recruiting Nicas for.

So Nicaragua in a lot of ways got ahead of itself, and then was left twisting in the wind by the Soviets for the Americans to use as a punching bag. And I mean that quite literally. The Nicas had sent people to Eastern Europe to train as fighter pilots and helicopter pilots. They even built a military airport. Only a handful of helicopters had made it before the Soviets cut them off.

In the CNN documentary series Cold War produced in the 90s there are interviews with former Soviet foreign ministry officials that confirmed this is exactly what took place.

Could the revolution have survived if they'd gotten timely military resources to defeat the contra war? Looking back at the 1990s, I doubt it. The United States would have strangled them economically. And there was a very grave economic problem: they had already embarked on the road outlined in the Communist Manifesto:

*  *  *

We have seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy.

The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.

Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionising the mode of production.

*  *  *

So to begin with, the measures can't be sustained; they must be followed by more and more measures. But that road was not open to the Sandinistas once the Soviets pulled back (and perhaps not even before, as they really didn't have a significant hereditary proletariat). They simply didn't have the economy, class structure, or resources to do that. The whole development would have had to be hot-housed from abroad. So they massively disrupted the capitalist economy of Nicaragua but then could go no further, and had to pay the price, and in the middle of a war.

I have the impression we may be seeing elements of the same issues in Venezuela. For example, the policy of keeping gasoline virtually free for such a long time just about guaranteed that it would be exported to Costa Rica and Brazil no matter what the law said.

And constantly insisting that what is pretty much the normal operation of a market,. in this case a Black market, is an imperialist plot doesn't change things, even though the imperialists are of course intimately involved and not just for political reasons but straight old economic plunder: in the immortal words of Don Barzini, "Of course, we are not Communists."

This impinges on the broader questions of "clientelismo" and "asistencialismo" that are even relevant to the United States. And that is carrying out social redistribution through programs to specifically targeted populations, thus tending to make them captives of the party in power. In the United States, what is left of the union movement is disproportionately concentrated in the public sector and especially in jurisdictions run by Democrats. And that is the difference between Medicare and the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children welfare program. AFDC got shitcanned (by Clinton!) but Medicare is a right and it becomes so entrenched it is virtually impossible to curtail.

That's the difference between Medicare for All and massive expansion of Medicaid and Obamacare subsidies. That was why Bernie proposed medicare for all, free college tuition, etc., while Clinton wanted to provide aid to those who needed it, with arguments like that Bernie would subsidized the college education of rich people who could pay.

But it is also a question relating to the Ortega-Murillo government today. (See what happened when Daniel tried to cut social security benefits: it's what touched off the massive rebellion against him).

José Mujica, without making a big deal about counterpoising it to clientelism, stressed constantly in the round of visits to various countries that he carried out as his term was concluding that the main instrument to redistribute wealth in capitalist society is wages, and a government of the left should make that its top priority -- strengthening the position of the workers in its negotiations with the capitalists. And the number two resource are taxes. I was very struck by how he insisted wages first.
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