Central America Treaty = Peace?
by Harold Lavender
In February the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly rejected new military aid to the contras. This was a setback of U.S. President Reagan’s plan to destroy the Sandinista revolution. Of course the vote was not everything it was cracked up to be: the Democrats plan to support “non-military” aid to the contras and one doesn’t have to be much of a cynic to recognize the contras will get funds one way or the other. Nonetheless, the vote was a victory for opponents of U.S. intervention and the Sandinista government which has made securing peace a priority.
Of course the Sandinistas paid a certain price to influence U.S. public opinion and the outcome of the congressional vote. The Sandinistas signed the Central American plan and now they being held to the very letter of the accord while the non-compliance of the right-wing military dictatorships in Central America is conveniently ignored.
The peace plan has led to a political trade-off. The ability of the U.S. to intervene militarily against the Sandinistas has been restrained: at the same time the Sandinistas have agreed to some concessions. The FSLN has modified some of its previous positions, agreeing to lift the state of emergency imposed in 1982, expedite the application of a wide ranging amnesty for its opponents, and hold cease-fire talks with the contras.
It is possible to debate the relative merits of the agreement, two very different interpretations were presented in Socialist Challenge (Vol. 2, Nos. 6 and 7).
However, in engaging in such a discussion it is important not to lose sight of our fundamental objectives. Our main objective in solidarity work is surely not to debate the peace plan but to stop U.S. intervention. We unconditionally defend the Nicaraguan government to engage in whatever diplomatic maneuvers may be necessary to defend the revolution from U.S. intervention.
Socialists and anti-intervention activists are in no way obligated to cheerlead for the diplomatic maneuvers of the FSLN. Our focus should be very simple—stop U.S. intervention period. If the enormous military-diplomatic-economic pressure of the U.S. was removed, there would be no reason, no necessity for the Sandinistas to engage in trade-offs or make concessions to the contras.
We have no reason to hail the anti-communist, anti-Sandinista President Arias of Costa Rica as a noble democratic hero, or praise the great virtues of the Contradora governments.
However, it would be a serious mistake not to recognize there is a real difference between what President Arias is proposing and what Ronald Reagan wants. And it is quite wrong to condemn the Sandinista government for seeking to make use of these divisions.
It’s fair enough to say the peace accords were a response to U.S. pressure, that the terms of the agreement are not ideal and that they involve some risks for the Nicaraguan revolution.
Unfortunately, comrades Neil Henderson and Robert Adam (Socialist Challenge, Vol. 2, No.7) go much further than this and condemn the peace accord outright and call on the FSLN to break with the accord.
This position implies that the Sandinistas have unlimited freedom to do whatever they want. In their extreme voluntarism, Henderson and Adam miss the central point—the Sandinistas are faced with an extraordinarily difficult situation in which they have very limited options.
Henderson and Adam look at the actions of the FSLN highly suspiciously. Their suspicion is not justified by the facts.
The FSLN led the Nicaraguan revolution—with great tactical skill one might add. For eight years, the FSLN has courageously resisted U.S.-backed aggression. While moving slowly, the FSLN has sought to enact major reforms in the interests of the workers and peasants.
Yes, the socio-economic revolution is not yet finished and yes, it ultimately needs to be extended throughout Central America and Latin America. But surely this should not blind us to the fact that the FSLN has acted as a revolutionary leadership. If the FSLN has made some hard choices to implement the peace plan, they have done so with good reason.
The contra war is taking a crippling toll in Nicaragua of human life and has wreaked havoc on the economy. The people of Nicaragua desperately want peace. The FSLN is perfectly correct to respond to this desire and bend over backwards in an attempt to facilitate peace. It is only with peace that the economy can be truly restored. If the economic situation continues to run down, the Sandinistas risk losing popular support because they have been unable to improve the lives of their supporters.
Yes, the FSLN has opened new space for domestic opposition. But is this really such a terrible thing? If the Sandinistas act in the interests of the worker and peasant majority in Nicaragua and earn the support of these sectors, then surely they can withstand the disinformation and counterrevolutionary propaganda of La Prensa.
Revolutionary tactics do not consist of mouthing maximalist slogans. In unfavorable circumstances revolutionaries may well be compelled to make concessions.
For example, the Bolsheviks under Lenin signed the Brest-Litovsk treaty with German invaders in World War I. The terms of this treaty were ten times worse than the Central American peace accords, but Lenin was clear there was no other viable choice.
Political tactics need to be determined in relation to the level of mass consciousness and overall relationship of forces in the society and the world.
Henderson and Adam would not advocate boycotting all parliamentary elections in Canada—because parliament is in reality an illegitimate bourgeois institution. Nor would they call on trade unionists to tear up their contracts because agreements with the boss are unacceptable compromises with wage slavery. It is only common sense.
The FSLN has lots of revolutionary common sense—this we should applaud, not condemn.