I Wanna Be Literated #200

I Wanna Be Literated #200

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

What Went Wrong? The Nicaraguan Revolution: A Marxist Analysis
by Dan La Bot

Banana republics are the greatest. I don’t know what the appeal is, but there’s something cool about jungle/guerilla/revolutionary stories. Maybe it’s because anything can happen in South and Central America. The population is just fearless that way. I really should stop romanticizing the Sandinista revolution. But, then again, I’m a Clash fan, so what can I do?

My initial interest in Nicaraguan history led me to Kinzer’s book Blood of Brothers and many of Chomsky’s writings discussing the Sandinista revolution, putting it in a global context. La Botz’s book claimed to take a more left-leaning perspective (more left than Kinzer at least) and cast a wider net on the whole thing: going from the creation of the Sandinista movement in the 60s up its evolution into the current political party. The Marxist analysis basically meant that La Botz was going to actually discuss how/which Marxism the Sandinistas used to carry out their goals.

What Went Wrong? is a pretty thorough and detailed book. Sure, it was tough getting through the tiny font on the page (which made these 300+ pages feel more like 600), but La Botz does this great thing where he segments his analysis into topics within the chapters. His writing is clear and almost conversational at times while at the same time being highly detailed. This way, it might feel like a lot more work getting through the pages, but the information is much easier to retain. This style is one of the many strong points of this book.

What we lean in What Went Wrong? is that the Sandinistas were initially a Stalinist group that chose to adopt Leninist/Marxist/Cuban style communism once they came to power. While they were good guerillas they were quite unprepared to take on the political machinery and creating the bureaucratic system needed to run the country. Mistakes were made (along with some successes that are BARELY covered), and corruption within the party along with the Contra war escalating, the Sandinistas were simply voted out of power (and accepted this fate). However, the political aspirations and slyness of leader Daniel Ortega helped keep the Sandinista as a viable political alternative for decades until at last they were leading the country again.

While I learned a lot from this book, I wish La Botz discussed a little more where the Sandinistas succeeded and how they helped improve living conditions for the citizens. These accomplishments are almost completely ignored and makes it hard to understand how the Sandinistas have had a mixed history. Sure, the book is called What Went WRONG, but to focus solely on the shortcomings of the Sandinistas makes them look completely incompetent.

I would still highly recommend this book for anyone willing to read about Nicaraguan and Sandinista history in general. It’s dense, but stick with it and it will pay off.

Get it from Haymarket.

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