El Salvador & Its Politicians


Fifth Estate # 316, Spring, 1984

As El Salvador’s leftist rebel movement scores repeated victories on the battlefield and brings an increasing geographic area under its administration, the Vietnam analogy is heard everywhere. However, what the U.S. faces is not so much the prospect of another “quagmire,” but the possibility of a direct defeat of its client state.

Even Reagan’s self-serving Commission on Central America, headed by unrepentant war criminal Henry Kissinger, reported back to the boss in January with warnings of doom for U.S. imperial plans. It stated that, “a collapse is not inconceivable.”

Although holding no illusions about the reformist and stalinist nature of the FDR/FMLN rebel leadership, nothing could be more pleasing to us than to see Reagan’s puppet government in San Salvador put to rout and the perpetrators of the tortures and murders brought to simple justice.

One would think this moment would be equally anticipated by those who have fought the forces of repression for so long, but the opposite seems to be true. The bureaucratic leadership of the rebel groups seem intent on snatching defeat from victory’s jaws.

A New Civilian Police Force

When several startling rebel victories at the beginning of the year were demonstrating the military power of the insurgents, Guillermo Ungo, president of the FDR, announced an FMLN-backed proposal February 9 calling for a “government of broad participation.” This “broadness” would extend even to what Ungo characterized as “the worthy elements” of the armed forces and would only exclude those who participated in the repression, members of Robert “Blowtorch Bob” D’Aubuisson’s fascist ARENA party and the oligarchy.

Ungo, the darling of the U.S. left, further proposed that a “permanent governmental structure” be established along with a new civilian police force, a “unified national army,” and, in a crass appeal to business owners, pledged that the new government would provide “adequate channels and profit margins for the producers.” Is this what nearly 50,000 people have died for—profit margins for the capitalists and new cops (undoubtedly comprised of “worthy elements” of the old)?

It is always at the flashpoint of victory for workers and peasants that the “revolutionary” leaders of the “masses” stand unmasked and their true authoritarian and conservative nature is exposed. Whether it is a Lenin in 1917 or an Ungo in 1984, when the lure of state power is dangled, the rhetoric of revolution and class struggle becomes the facade for the establishment of the new police.

It is clear that Ungo and his cronies would wind up ministers of state in this new government complete with capital and authority secured. A real revolution would smash the army, the police and the state apparatus and begin a democratic life unhampered by the machination of these leftist opportunists.

Salvadoran Electoral Sham

Meanwhile, the late March Salvadoran electoral sham, essentially run and financed by Washington, proved to be a dismal failure. According to New York Times figures, less than half of the “estimated potential voters” of the country cast their ballot and the total number was less than in the Constituent Assembly elections held two years ago. This in a country where the fine for not voting is equal to almost 10% of the average yearly income and where not having a stamped voter identity card could subject the non-participant to serious trouble from roving death squads.

The signs of collapse appear more evident each day as the Salvadoran army shows an increasing unwillingness to fight—either by avoiding skirmishes, surrendering, fleeing battles, or selling their U.S. supplied uniforms and weapons to the rebels—as more and more U.S. “aid” winds up in Miami and Geneva banks and as the prospect of direct death squad rule becomes a possibility if the right-wing parties bring the dreaded D’Aubuisson to power as president.

Reagan cannot allow a rebel victory either for his own political needs or for the interests of the finance capital he represents. Domestic electoral concerns dictate that a “loss” of El Salvador would be disastrous at the polls for a man who has gone to great lengths to create an image of himself as a tough anti-communist. And the great, and accurate, fear in Washington is that a rebel victory would be a disaster for imperialism in the region perhaps setting the stage for the next “domino” to fall—Guatemala. This perception of the critical nature of the situation by Washington is perhaps one reason for the obvious conservative nature of the FDR proposals.

Still, the prospects for revolution in El Salvador stand at a crossroads, with both the right and left looking to thwart the thrust for liberation so many have died and been tortured for. It is clear in Central America that the workers and peasants face enemies on both sides of the barricades; hopefully those who desire an authentic revolution will push aside those who would restrict their zeal and greet Reagan from revolutionary San Salvador.