The original edition in English, Sandinista: Carlos Fonseca and the Nicaraguan Revolution, was published by Duke University Press in 2000, and the first Spanish-language translation came out in Nicaragua in 2003.
Fonseca, one of the outstanding communist leaders of the 20th century, was the central founder and leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) until his death in combat in 1976. Under the FSLNs leadership, working people in Nicaragua carried out a popular insurrection in 1979 that overthrew the U.S.-backed Somoza dictatorship, established a workers and farmers government, and began to take far-reaching measures in the interests of the producing majority that earned the hatred of capitalists at home and abroad. They mobilized and defeated a U.S.-organized counterrevolutionary war.
More than 70 people attended the book launching. Pedro Pablo Rodríguez, a prominent Cuban historian, writer, and editor of the collected works of José Martí published by the Center for Martí Studies in Havana, was scheduled to make the main presentation. When he had to travel out of the country unexpectedly and could not be at the meeting, he left written remarks that were read by Norberto Codina, director of the cultural magazine La Gaceta de Cuba, published by the Cuban Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC).
Also on the platform were Zimmermann and María del Pilar Díaz Castañón, author of the preface to the Cuban edition and a professor at the University of Havana.
Above all, this book explains how Carlos Fonseca was forged as a revolutionary leader, Díaz Castañón said.
It shows that without the Cuban Revolution there would have been no Fonseca.
I am delighted that finally, after so many years, a book will circulate in Cuba that tells about the deeds of the Sandinistas, Rodríguez said in his presentation. He noted that only a few titles about this subject have been published in Cuba, most of them shortly after the revolutionary victory in Nicaragua a quarter of a century ago and long out of print.
To resist the imperialist offensive in the world today, Cubans need to know the history of our own struggle for social justice and socialism, Rodríguez said. And understanding Fonseca and the Nicaraguan revolution means understanding better our own revolution, our dreams, and our realities. This is especially important at a time of a retreat from revolutionary ideas and practice in todays world.
The well-documented Fonseca biography tells the historic truth about this revolutionary leader and the movement he built, Rodríguez noted. At the same time, he added, the author writes from the standpoint of an unabashed partisan on the side of the Sandinista revolution.Zimmermann, who teaches Latin American history at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, lived and worked in Nicaragua for a number of years. In 1981-82 she reported on the unfolding revolution for the Managua Bureau of Perspectiva Mundial and the Militant.
Political impact of Cuban Revolution
In her remarks, Zimmermann pointed to the impact the Cuban Revolution and its communist leadership had on revolutionary-minded Nicaraguans of Fonsecas generation. Just weeks after the Cuban victory, Carlos left his university classroom in the city of León and headed for Havana, she said. He and many leaders of the FSLN spent considerable time in Cuba over the following years, participating in the popular mobilizations that consolidated the first socialist revolution in the Americas, studying, receiving military training along with millions of Cubans, and getting the medical care they needed as they recovered from wounds received in combat against the forces of the Somoza dictatorship.
Zimmermann explained that Fonseca was in Cuba during the October 1962 missile crisis, when working people mobilized massively to defend their revolution in face of U.S. preparations to invade the island.
Fonseca and his Nicaraguan comrades witnessed directly the process of transformation here [in Havana] during the early years and the inevitable conflicts with U.S. imperialism, she said. The Cuban Revolution showed young Carlos Fonseca that a popular revolution and a profound social transformation were possible.
It was only in Cuba, Zimmermann added, that Fonseca also began to discover the revolutionary anti-imperialist legacy of Augusto César Sandino, who in 1926-34 led the armed resistance by workers and farmers against the invasion of Nicaragua by U.S. Marines. There, she said, he read for the first time books like Gregorio Selsers biography of Sandino. In Nicaragua in the 1950s, the only book about Sandino was the one written by his assassin, Anastasio Somoza García.
In being won to a communist, working-class perspective, she noted, he broke with the politics of the pro-Moscow Socialist Party of Nicaragua, of which he had been a member, and joined with other revolutionaries to establish the FSLN.
Sandinista, Zimmermann said, tells the story of the political evolution of Fonseca and of the organization he helped build.
By the mid-1980s, however, the FSLN leadership increasingly abandoned the proletarian course Fonseca had fought for, subordinating land reform and revolutionary mobilizations of working people to conciliation with sections of the capitalists and landlords. By the time of the 1990 elections, which FSLN candidate Daniel Ortega, then president of Nicaragua, lost to liberal bourgeois politician Violeta Chamorro, the revolution had been gutted.
For some today, the demise of the Nicaraguan revolution in the late 1980s shows the impossibility of a popular revolution that can open the road to a socialist transformation, Zimmermann said.
For me it represents just the opposite. An accurate understanding of the events shows how a genuine revolution can be victorious if it has adequate leadership.
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