Through the smoke of the rebellion in April, which the Government of Ortega-Murillo went “all out” to squash, a friend asked me: What is this regime like after the repression? I would have gladly sketched the parallel lives of Ortega and Franco, the dictator who ruled Spain for almost 40 years.
No less tempting was to compare the passion of Rosario Murillo for jewelry with the addiction that Dona Carmen Polo [Franco’s wife] earned her to be nicknamed “the Necklaces.” But there are too many differences that make the similarities diminish and loses their explanatory force. There is another more enlightening comparison. Ortega may not resemble Stalin, but the repression and punishments of these last eight months have had the same result and have been executed with the same rage as the Stalinist purges.
At ground level – at the so-called level of the “bases” – and in the superstructure, the regime has especially punished those who were members of its own ranks. The repression and subsequent imprisonment in Masaya, Diriamba, Jinotega and Matagalpa -above all, but not exclusively- focused on old militants, including several former high-ranking officers of the Sandinista Popular Army.
In the most recent phase of the repression, the seizures and or confiscation of the facilities -in several cases combined with cancellations of legal status- of NGOs and media, sought to strike people who had held positions in various entities of the Sandinista State during the 1980s. These included Carlos Fernando Chamorro (Confidential, This Week, Tonight), Monica Baltodano (Popol Na Foundation), Vilma Nunez de Escorcia and Gonzalo Carrion (Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights) and Sofia Montenegro (Center of Communication Research).
Or they went after NGOs whose governing boards are dominated by Sandinistas, such as the Foundation for the Conservation and Development of the South East of Nicaragua (Fundacion del Rio), the Institute for the Development of Democracy (IPADE), the Fundacion Instituto de Liderazgo de las Segovias and the Institute of Strategic Studies and Public Policies (IEEPP). Most of their leaders took critical distance from the FSLN party in the early 1990s. But why do they still suffer the FSLN’s repudiation?
They are joined by Miguel Mora, owner of 100% Noticias, a Sandinista with a much more recent detachment from the party and Ortega’s policies. Hagamos Democracia is the only attacked NGO that is out of place in this group. It counts as the exception that confirms the rule.
That compulsion to dethrone almost all the party’s old guard – especially the Bolshevik intellectuals – is a particularity that Stalin shares with Ortega, who managed to get only two of the nine commanders who made up the old National Directorate of the FSLN, and no intellectual or worthy activist, to accompany him in his lucrative adventure of 21st century socialism.
The Stalinist purges have been vividly documented in several biographies of recent translation into Spanish: Lo que no puedo olvidar by Anna Lárina (wife of Nikolai Bukharin), El Vertigo of Eugenia Ginzburg and Contra Toda Esperanza of Nadiezhda Mandelstam (wife of Osip Mandelstam). Several decades before these books could be written or get to a printing press, in 1940, Arthur Koestler synthesized in his novel “Darkness at Noon” (Eclipse solar, its title in German, is more eloquent) the way in which the protagonists of the Soviet revolution were removed from their positions, subjected to rigged judicial processes and finally imprisoned and / or executed.
The reflections that Koestler is inserting throughout the narrative apply to the case of the FSLN and Nicaragua, this also applies to the party, since the 80s, “the motives of each individual did not matter, and he didn’t care about their conscience, nor did he worry about what was going on in their head or in their heart. The Party knew only one crime: to move away from the indicated path.”
In the mouth of a typical political commissar of Stalin, Koestler said these words: “A conscience makes one as inadequate for the revolution as a double chin. The conscience eats the brain as if it were a cancer, until the last remnants of gray matter disappear … Sympathy, conscience, disgust, despair, repentance and penance, constitute for us a repellent relaxation … The most serious temptation for any of us is renounce violence, repent, put yourself at peace … all commitments to one’s conscience constitute perfidy. When the damn inner voice speaks to you, cover your ears.”
As the intellectuals were being removed from their positions and moving from their offices in the ministries to the Stalinist dungeons their works were also being removed from the official libraries. Not even the books on foreign trade and finance were left out of the purges, although the authors and works of history and philosophy were more persecuted, which were replaced by those written by Number One (Stalin).
Also, in Nicaragua, in pamphlets, school texts and museums, there is a vain attempt to rewrite history, that of the Sandinista revolution, with a growing exclusion of the Sandinistas who put their commitment to their own conscience over commitment to the party.
In the final pages, Koestler ends up riveting the pessimistic tone that runs through his novel: “You could not expect anything from the resolutions of the Party, because Number One had all the threads in hand and had made the Party bureaucracy his accomplice, so that it would have to fall with him; and the bureaucracy knew it. “In Nicaragua, complicity embraces the entire party-state bureaucracy, along with the parasitic opposition party deputies, clinging to a power that vanishes and that only persists on the basis of artillery. You arm yourself, then you exist.
The FSLN was a guerrilla organization that led a movement of rebellion with the aim of overthrowing the Somoza dictatorship and establishing a political system of socialist inspiration. This FSLN managed to summon, in the insurrectional struggle and in the 80s, very diverse sectors, including a group of intellectuals of the first order. During the 1980s, the FSLN abandoned its hybrid nature (organization / movement) to become a mass political party.
By deepening and reinforcing this attitude, the FSLN fell under the effects of the iron law of the oligarchy of Robert Michels, which postulates an oligarchic evolution of the mass parties because their leaders, although initially revolutionary, emancipate themselves from their bases and become conservative, because leaders will always seek to increase their power at any price, without excluding the abandonment of old ideals.
The Stalinization of the FSLN began in the 1980s. It was a long process where the FSLN-party took control over important grassroots organizations, which were autonomous when they joined the insurrectionary struggle, and emptied them of all critical potential.
Now we are suffering from the terminal phase of Stalinization. In this stage, the FSLN-party is neutralizing the critical voices that spring from the FSLN-movement. The logic of repression in this phase is not the maximization of effectiveness. It is obvious that it hasn’t managed to silence critical voices, which now receive more attention and delegitimize Ortega before international opinion, the Achilles’ heel of the FSLN in the April uprising.
This phase of repression has no rational purpose. The regime wastes its energies in attacks that are not driven by a desire for efficiency, but by a visceral desire for revenge against those who have left the indicated path. He has lost the sense of the delicate balance implied by the preservation of power. Convinced that you must climb on the shoulders of giants to see better, and sick with the gigantism that contaminates the mass parties, the FSLN put its feet on its own shoulders and tried to climb. It did not get a better perspective, but a grotesque contortion.