“The MNN soon disappeared into another organization with largely the same membership that sometime in late 1961 or early 1962 began calling itself the National Liberation Front (Frente de Liberación Nacional, FLN). The FLN took its name from the organization that fought French colonial rule in Algeria, at the time regarded by the young Nicaraguans as second only to the Cuban Revolution in importance. Early on, Carlos Fonseca proposed adding the word Sandinista and calling the group FSLN, but it took him more than a year to convince his comrades of the addition. The first communiqués signed by the FSLN were issued in September and October 1963. The earliest appearance of the name FSLN in print is in a November 1963 interview with Fonseca in the Mexican magazine Siempre.
“Why did the revolutionaries around Fonseca hesitate to call their organization Sandinista in 1962? Sandino’s name had already begun to resonate in the broader student movement, as shown by the 1960 demonstrations demanding that Roosevelt Avenue be renamed Sandino Avenue. Starting in early 1960, Fonseca pointed to the model of Sandino in his own writings, calling his own generation ‘the children of Sandino’ and naming his proposed army of liberation after Sandino’s Defending Army of National Sovereignty. Fonseca’s 1960 essay ‘Nicaragua, Bitter Land’ praised the heroism of Sandino and quoted some of his best-known sayings.”
– pg. 73, SANDINISTA: CARLOS FONSECA AND THE NICARAGUAN REVOLUTION, Matilde Zimmermann, Duke University Press, 2000
As we look around Belize City, especially on the Southside, it is difficult not to come to the conclusion that we have a great human problem with respect to our large number of untrained, unskilled young Belizean people. In Marxist–Leninist terminology, the unemployed, unemployable section of a population is referred to as the lumpenproletariat.
The Belize City lumpenproletariat no doubt constituted the core of UBAD’s support during the years from 1969 to 1973. Belize’s working classes, or proletariat, as organized in trade unions, generally supported the ruling People’s United Party (PUP), while a specialized section of the work force, the civil servants, by and large supported the Opposition National Independence Party (NIP), which was absorbed into the new United Democratic Party (UDP) in 1973.
In her recent book on black power in the Caribbean, Kate Quinn quotes something I wrote back in 1970, that at its formation in 1969, UBAD had one executive but three different directions. Because of the diversity in personnel and thinking at UBAD’s leadership level, the presidency of UBAD always presented something of a balancing act. In retrospect, I realize more than ever how politically disinterested and immature I was, and I must confess that I spent too much time congratulating myself on holding the group together.
Before I proceed, let me explain that over this Easter holiday I was reading of the life and work of Carlos Fonseca Amador, “the undisputed intellectual and strategic leader of the FSLN,” the FSLN being the revolutionary organization we know as the “Sandinistas.” After almost 18 years of struggle in Nicaragua, the FSLN finally managed to overthrow the brutal military dictatorship of Anastacio Somoza in 1979. Carlos Fonseca Amador, however, had been killed in battle in 1976. As I read Matilde Zimmermann’s book, I was filled with admiration for Fonseca Amador.
Fonseca Amador was the absolute opposite of myself, in that he was ideologically rigid. He had analyzed the history of Nicaragua, of the region, and of the world, and he had come to the conclusion that the only way out for the Nicaraguan people was armed struggle against Somoza with the goal of radical social transformation.
I was struck by the amount of position papers, statements, and manifestos written and published by the FSLN during their years of struggle. These documents were mostly the work of Fonseca Amador, and clearly he was seeking to establish a defined body of beliefs to which the movement could subscribe in a unilateral manner. Because of these specific, dogmatic ideas, the FSLN became a fighting force which was unified and became formidable. This took many years. There were great sacrifices made by the members of the FSLN, including jail, torture, and death.
Carlos Fonseca Amador was a communist, which is to say, that he believed that Somoza’s oppressive, unjust, capitalist dictatorship had to be overthrown and replaced by a government of workers and peasants which would be in charge of the resources and production of the Nicaraguan state. Fonseca Amador took the bull by the horns, and he paid the price. But, the FSLN triumphed.
In 1957 or 1958, the Roman Catholic Church brought a former British communist, Douglas Hyde, to British Honduras to lecture about the dangers and temptations posed by the philosophy of communism. I was only 10 or 11 years old, but I attended that lecture at the old Parish Hall, just across the Haulover Creek from my canalside home. I was still attending Holy Redeemer Boys School at the time, and I do not remember how it came about that I went to the lecture.
Douglas Hyde’s discourse was, to some extent, over my head, but no doubt the Church was seeing developments in Belize’s socio-politics which it considered fertile ground for communism. There were powerful trade union movements in British Honduras at that time, and these workers’ groups were linked with regional and international workers’ bodies. There were many communists in regional and international workers’ organizations. The Roman Catholic Church brought Douglas Hyde to Belize to drive home the point that communism was an atheistic philosophy, and that it could not therefore co-exist with the Church.
As a young activist in UBAD, I never took the bull by the horns, as Carlos Fonseca Amador did. The price I have paid for my inadequacies is watching my people being destroyed before my very eyes. Better could have been done by my generation. Even to this day, there are those of us who claim to be concerned about the critical nature of our situation. But, there is no common body of beliefs, and so our voices are sometimes like those in the Tower of Babel. We cannot understand each other. Or, that is how it has seemed for years and decades.
In 2014 Nicaragua, there is now doubt whether the truths for which Fonseca Amador and the FSLN fought are being honored and pursued. But, that is not the point of the column. I have sought herein to give public respect to one of our Central American brothers who fought bravely and brilliantly for his people. This was Carlos Fonseca Amador.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.