Nicaragua and the crisis in solidarity
Perhaps we in the United States would do a better job of making good international solidarity decisions if we had any serious resistance to capitalism and imperialism of our own.
There are a lot of things that we as a people could do to stand up for ourselves and oppose what our system, and its government, does here and around the world, but we don’t really. We get a few great marches in at the beginnings of wars and such, but without any socialist opposition political party or other sustained, organized popular movements, the resistance always fizzles out.
After a short time, the Democrats switch the public conversation back to something they like better, such as the right to be gay in the military. The Republicans oppose. The press follows.
What little popular resistance we have is fragmented, and depends on the legal status of the shrinking remains of our union movement and even more fragmented opposition electoral politics. The spaces that could have been organizations of people’s power are dominated by the bunch of private businesses called the non-profit sector. Very few of our popular organizations even have a voting membership; of those fewer still have real, contested elections for the leadership. Our government is not really a democracy, so what tools do we have to do better with organizations that should belong to the people?
As a culture, we do not do grass roots led organizing very well, any more.
So, how does a society that does not really have a strong movements practice solidarity with the peoples of other nations that do?
For the most part we don’t.
What we have instead is individual advocacy work, often embodied by some self-appointed people who set up some of those non-profits. Such groups do a lot sometimes. The boycotts of South Africa back in the day and the current Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement would be the two big cases of such an advocacy practice making a lot of political noise when noise is needed.
Many would say that our Bernie movement, the AOC squad and the other left Democrat efforts being made with some success around the country are that kind of a popular opposition. I disagree on two levels. First is that they depend on our advertising model of expensive campaigns to get elected. Second is because I do not feel that it works. In Oakland we live in an area represented by such heroes as Ron Dellums and after fifty years, I am not sure we have a lot to show for it.
In any case, the US practice is that advocates advocate for their thing and for the most part do not represent any consensus of our popular movements. That is not solidarity; it is supporting a cause.
What we do not have is some kind of agreement between trade unions, civil rights associations, political parties, immigrant associations, etc. that some part of US foreign policy or some outrageous human rights crimes of other nations should be opposed, by us, now.
That would be a real solidarity movement. We only have bits and pieces at best.
On the positive side we have had some good “hands off” movements. Now would be a good time to be clear on the hands-off Cuba idea.
A wish was expressed that Cuba resolve its current crisis peacefully without external interference. That is not coming from our liberal Democrat left, it is the position of the president of Mexico. He also offered to send food and vaccines to Cuba, if helpful, and expressed a desire to see an end to the economic embargos of Cuba.
Less productively we have seen more than a couple “call your congressman” campaigns directed at the internal affairs of other nations.
That finally brings us to the current situation with Nicaragua. The last thing any nation in Latin America needs is some kind of self-declared left progressive movement in the United States advocating for US government involvement in their internal affairs.
Why be willing to boycott Israel but not Nicaragua? That depends who is doing the boycotting. When it is the United States government in Nicaragua, there is an inconvenient truth that changes everything.
The history and current reality of US imperialism in Latin America is a war crime itself. It is a century and a half of invasions, subversions, proxy wars and military coups that we in the US should classify in our history as one of our national shames alongside the genocidal displacement of the Native Americans and the enslavement and subsequent oppression of African Americans. In Nicaragua all those things happened and that nation suffered death and destruction at our government’s hands. We should not be asking our government to sanction Latin American individuals or nations or to be involved in any way any more than a German should be asking their government to sanction Israel.
That does not mean that people in the United States should not be aware of, active around and opposed to the recent political arrests and the repressive actions of the Nicaraguan government. It just means that we should be just as adamantly opposed to our own government doing anything about it.
So, what can we do, how should we do it?
Respecting the sovereignty of other nations does not mean that we don’t choose our own friends.
We may not have the mass movement we really need here, but we do have some organizations we can trust to be consistent in supporting human rights and opposing US intervention. Let’s work with them. Let’s convince them that the arrests of the opposition leaders in Nicaragua is really repression.
We should be able to form a consensus that demands the release of those political prisoners, the reopening of the media groups and the operation of Nicaragua’s own human rights organizations.
And we can tell the Nicaraguan government directly how we feel about it.
We can get more than a few hundred names on petitions, if we worked on it.
We can get some unions and grass roots groups to sign on to prison release.
We should find our friends in Nicaragua using the same criteria. There are groups and organizations who are asking for civil liberties, but do not want a return to imperialism. We can help them get their voices heard outside of Nicaragua, here and in other nations. Sending some money might help. A popular boycott of Nicaragua’s tourist resorts might help. We should ask our Nicaraguan friends what they would like us to do. If it jives with our values, then we should do it.
There are other Nicaraguans who are not the friends of solidarity because they are wanting to impose a right-wing government totally allied with the US State Department that would roll back all that the revolution in Nicaragua ever did. They deserve civil rights and their political prisoners should be released too, but be clear, they would not support democratic rights for anyone else, especially anyone on the left.
Both the left and right have allies and friends in Nicaragua, and pretty much anywhere else.
Finally, we and those of like mind around democracy and civil rights should make our voices heard, while we respect the fact that Nicaragua needs to sort its own problems out.
And we as Americans have a lot of problems to sort out too.
We would be doing the world a favor if we made some progress here.