By toni solo
Augusto C. Sandino
Two men who embodied anti-imperialist resistance in the 20th Century were born five years apart in these days of May. The first, Ho Chi Minh, was born on May 19th 1890, the second was Augusto C. Sandino, born on May 18th 1895. Ho Chi Minh died in 1969, four years before Vietnam’s liberation forces finally defeated the US military in 1973, prior to unification of the country in 1975. In Nicaragua in 1933, Augusto C. Sandino defeated the US military campaign against him, before his murder, sanctioned by the US government, in 1934.
Another highly relevant anniversary is that of the death of the Cuban hero and martyr José Martí on May 19th 1895, the day after Sandino was born. These men’s determined defence of national independence is intertwined in innumerable ways as undying symbols of integrity, commitment and sacrifice. Reflecting on their lives now, despite obvious changes, one sees many strong continuities.
Ho Chi Minh was 44 when Sandino was murdered, aged 39. Both were well aware of contemporary global anti-imperialist struggles, from the Bolsheviks’ defence of the Soviet Union against US and European aggression to the Chinese revolution of 1925-1927 to Abd El Krim’s war against both France and Spain in the Sahara, also in the 1920s. International fascism – the marriage of elite corporate economic power with State military power – threatens humanity as savagely as it did in the 1930s and as European and US imperialism have done for centuries..
But whereas, until the Russian Revolution, small countries everywhere lay virtually at the mercy of the imperialist powers, now regional integration processes make it much harder for the Western elites to get what they want. The response of the US and European fascist oligarchies to that reality has been twofold. Domestically, they attack the living standards of their own countries’ peoples.
Overseas they wage endless war against vulnerable countries, using proxy forces and hi-tech weaponry to minimize their vicious aggression’s impact on their own domestic populations. This strategy also masks the direct relationship of their overseas military aggression to the oligarchs’ domestic attack on ordinary people’s living standards. These global political, economic and military realities directly affect the well being of people everywhere.
The Western powers deliberately promote massive loss of life, injustice, corruption and inequality and viciously intervene in countries that defy their will. The moral fight of good against evil, light against darkness, truth against falsehood could not be more stark. As well as his political and economic rationale, Sandino very clearly also conceived his struggle for Nicaragua’s sovereignty in those moral and spiritual terms.
That is one aspect of the continuity between Sandino’s war against the US occupation of Nicaragua and the Sandinista Revolution now. A second aspect of that continuity is how Sandino’s conception of his actions embraced all of Latin America and the Caribbean, not just Nicaragua or Central America. A third profound aspect of this historical and contemporary continuity is Sandino’s emphasis on the development of a Nicaraguan economy based on collective, cooperative organization of the means of production.
These aspects of the deep continuity between General Sandino and the government of President Comandante Daniel Ortega are fundamental to any understanding of Nicaragua’s contemporary history. Likewise, Sandino’s resonance throughout anti-imperialist resistance across Latin America, Africa and Asia, sets the tone and rhythm of the Sandinista government’s current international relations. Nicaragua’s foreign policy is a model of how a small country can prioritize South -South cooperation while shifting traditional relations with the Western imperialist powers onto more independent terms.
To grasp this deep continuity between Sandino and the present Sandinista government led by Comandante Daniel Ortega, one has only to read the preamble to Sandino’s “Plan to bring about the Supreme Dream of Bolívar”, written five years before his murder.
“Varied and diverse are the theories that have been conceived to achieve either a coming together, an alliance or a federation taking in all twenty one parts of our America into a single nationality. But never until today has that union, longed for by the whole Latin American people, been so imperative and necessary, nor, until now, has the urgency been so present as well as the means that currently exist to reach that end, historically prescribed as the greatest task facing the citizens of Latin America.
We have already had the chance to declare that “the first mistake of our Latin-Indian America was not to have consulted the opening of the Panama Canal; but we can still avoid a further mistake in relation to the Nicaraguan Canal.”
Deeply convinced as we are that North American capitalism has reached the final stage of its development, thus transforming itself into imperialism, and that it no longer abides by theories of law and justice, showing no respect at all for the immutable principles of independence of the different Latin American nationalities, we consider the alliance of our Latin American States to be indispensable and of the utmost urgency faced with the imperialist pretensions of the United States of North America or the pretensions of any other power intent on subjecting us to their interests.
Before analyzing the matter further, I would like to be allowed to sketch out here how, why and under what circumstances we have conceived the idea of the immediate need to form the alliance of Latin American States which we propose in this document.
The conditions in which we have been carrying out our armed struggle in Nicaragua against the North American invaders and their allies has convinced us that our persistent resistance, now three years old “could last two, three, four or who knows how many years more, but at the end of the fight, the enemy, owning all the elements and all the resources, will have to declare themselves victorious, given that we have found ourselves alone in our action, without being able to count on the indispensable support, official or unofficial, of any government in our Latin America or that of any other country.” And it was that sombre vision of the future which impelled us to work out a better way of avoiding the enemy claiming victory. Our thought worked relentlessly round the clock, to develop an optimistic panorama of our, tomorrow triumphant, America.
We were equally convinced that the government of the United States of North America, quashing Central American sovereignty, would never abandon its drive to realize its ambitious projects in this part of our America, projects which for the most part depend on the future maintenance of North American power, even if in doing so they destroy civilizations and sacrifice innumerable human lives.
On the other hand, an isolated Central America, with Nicaragua abandoned, counting only on the pain and anguish of the Latin American people, would be even less able to avoid imperialist greed grabbing Central American land to build the interoceanic canal and establish their planned naval base. In our own time, we saw clearly that the silence of the Latin American governments as they observed the Central American tragedy implied tacit approval of the aggressive and insolent attitude of the United States of North America against a vast proportion of the continent; an aggression which showed, in its turn, a collective collapse of the Latin American States’ right to self-determination.
Under the influence of these considerations, we came to understand the absolute necessity that the intense drama lived by the mothers, wives and orphans of Central America, denied their loved ones on the battlefields of Las Segovias by the soldiers of North American imperialism, should not be in vain, nor that they be cheated, but rather that the moment should be used to consolidate Latin American nationality, rejecting all treaties, pacts and agreements made with legalistic pretensions that, one way or another, damage the absolute sovereignty not just of Nicaragua but of the other Latin American States as well.
To achieve that, nothing is more logical, more decisive or more vital, than the fusion of the twenty one States of our America into one unique Latin American nationality, so as to be able to subsume within that unity the rights over the interoceanic canal across Central American territory, over the Gulf of Fonseca, in waters also belonging to Central America and likewise all the other areas enclosed in the vast territorial extension from the Rio Bravo to the southern Magellan Straits, including Latin American islands useful either as strategic points or as communication routes in the common interest of all Latin American States.
However, along with other serious problems that affect the stability of Latin American States, what we are concerned to save, without further delay, are the naval base in the Gulf of Fonseca and the interoceanic canal route across Nicaragua, places, one day not far off, that will come to act both as a magnet and as the key to the world and, thus, these, under Latin American sovereign control, will serve as a bulwark for the defence of Latin America’s unconditional independence and as a marvelous valve to develop its overall material and spiritual progress .”
No more prescient summary of contemporary events exists than this document, written in 1929. The establishment of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2010 marks the corresponding eclipse of the US dominated Organization of American States. This year, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua established a Tripartite Commission to manage the development of the Gulf of Fonseca. This May 18th, President Ortega again confirmed the go ahead of the interoceanic canal across Lake Nicaragua, north of the Rio San Juan.