Sandinista: Carlos Fonseca and the Nicaraguan Revolution
The author, Matilde Zimmermann, had access to unpublished Fonseca papers and photographs. The book places Fonseca in the context of Nicaraguan History and sympathizes with him, though not uncritically. The writer had little patience with the Third Tendency headed by the Ortega brothers which was much more sympathetic to Sweden than to Cuba.
Fonseca is Nicaragua's second famous illegitimate son -- Augusto Calderon Sandino was also the son of a rich man and a much poorer woman, though Fonseca's mother was not indigenous. Both men were helped by their fathers and in Fonseca's case, given a good education. Fonseca came to his left political beliefs as a student in Matagalpa and later in Leon, and visited the Soviet Union and Cuba.
The book points out that most of the original FSLN leaders were middle class college boys -- and that recruitment from the peasantry, aside from German Pomares, came late, and with much condescension and misunderstandings. The Marxists and Third Tendency saw the farm workers as equivalent to industrial workers -- more needing labor organizing and protection, possibly on collective farms or privately owned farms as they were rather than grants of the land they'd been working; the peasants saw things differently and one of the conditions for ending the Contra War was giving their soldiers land grants, too.
The other thing that struck me was the futility of force beyond a certain point in controlling populations. The first Somoza was brutal to some (Sandino's followers were killed); the second Somoza seems to have been more reasonable; the third Somoza appeared to believe that with sufficient force, the resistance to him would collapse.
Many colonial regimes followed the same procedure -- if the guy they wanted escaped them, kill the family (Ho Chi Minh's in the French example). As with all of these, beyond a certain point, violence tended to make the people subjected to it feel that the regime must be destroyed at any cost.
Fonseca discovered Sandino while in Cuba and resurrected a legend to be the inspiration for the FSLN. Fonseca's Sandino was cleaned up a bit from the historical reality (the mistress disappeared along with the more spiritually cranky beliefs), and the FSLN, almost all middle class university educated men, began reaching out to the peasants and industrial workers, but from this book's account, the people in Managua's and Masaya's barrios were taking actions ahead of any FSLN leadership, and the FSLN scrambled to keep up (one of the Ortega brothers was killed in Masaya as he joined an action already in progress).
The book points out that the FSLN's win was not certain and that through most of its history, it was a small group of people living in safe houses and in small encampments in the mountains. They ended up winning the peace through being more organized than other groups, but were not necessarily, at least according to this book's author, decisive in the battles other than the assault on Leon, lead by a woman who is now a member of an opposition party, Dora Maria Tellez.
The author's conclusion is that Fonseca's death (wounded, captured alive, then killed the next morning according to the farm folk who buried the bodies) eliminated an strong opposition voice to the Social Democratic and pro-private capital plans of the Third Tendency. Whether anyone agrees with this as a loss will depend on individual politics. Fonseca comes across as a tad humorless (the author even compares his photographs to Che Guevera's who was more often seen smiling) and puritanical.
An interesting book for those who want to know about the players -- goes well with the biography of Daniel Ortega.