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The meetings were frequented by people who would later become part of the FSLN. Between and , Fonseca and those who would become the earliest members of the FSLN began to organise in the hopes of forming a true revolutionary organization.

Sandinista : Carlos Fonseca and the Nicaraguan revolution

Having formed several short-lived groups, the FSLN came to be in Originally, Fonseca hoped to duplicate the Cuban revolution in Nicaragua, drawing up battle plans based on the Cuban experience. In mid, a guerrilla cadre entered the Rios Coco y Bocay area of Nicaragua. Poorly prepared and having done little advance work in the area, several guerrillas were killed by the Guardia Nacional, while others were able to escape across the Honduran border.

The two along with four others were accused of plotting to assassinate Anastasio Somoza Debayle. Rather than present a defense during his trial, Fonseca leveled charges against Somoza which were later detailed in his manuscript, From Prison, I Accuse the Dictatorship. Between and , the FSLN carried out educational work and community organizing , creating indoctrination classes and campaigning to bring resources to working-class neighborhoods in Managua.

While Fonseca continued to hold the top leadership position in the FSLN, he was out of the country for much of the mids, having fled to Mexico and then Costa Rica. The operation began in May with about forty guerrillas. This time, the guerrillas were better trained and armed and had women among their ranks.

Nicaragua’s Revolutionary Moment

Fonseca, along with a few other FSLN leaders were committed to the inclusion of women, but some of the other fighters were not comfortable fighting alongside women. Like the earlier guerrilla incursion, the Pancasan operation ended with many of the FSLN guerrillas being killed by the Guardia Nacional. However, Fonseca, and the others who survived, considered the operation a political victory "because it showed the whole country that the FSLN still existed". In his book The World Was Going Our Way , Vasily Mitrokhin relates how, as part of the KGB's Aleksandr Shelepin 's strategy of using national liberation movements to advance the Soviet Union's foreign policy in the Third World, Shelepin organized funding and training in Moscow for twelve individuals handpicked by Fonseca, and the twelve were the core of the new Sandinista organization.

He took that chance and became an excellent student year after year, not in order to climb the social ladder, but very consciously to be better able to serve his people. Together with his long-life friend and revolutionary comrade, Borge, Fonseca actively participated in the political life of his school and of Matagalpa, coming into contact with the most advanced ideas of his time, especially with Marxism. While Fonseca rejected the lack of commitment to improve the condition the country's impoverished majority among many liberal elements that opposed the dictatorship, he also reacted against what he regarded as inconsequential positions from what should have been his natural allies on the Left.

Fonseca came to join the Communist Party and even visited the Soviet Union in for a youth congress, for which he was imprisoned on returning to Nicaragua. However, he became disillusioned by the party's reluctance to engage in outright confrontation with the dictatorship, let alone armed struggle. He would also grow increasingly disappointed by the party's inability to appreciate Nicaragua's own revolutionary traditions, in particular the struggle and experiences of Sandino and his guerrillas.

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Social justice, anti-imperialism and armed struggle were a uniting point for Fonseca. The existence of the oligarchic Somoza dictatorship was a product of the local capitalist elites' historic dependency on imperialist and colonial interests. So it was obvious to him and his revolutionary contemporaries that only the popular classes would lead the rest of society towards its liberation.

The regime's brutal domination in Nicaragua was imposed by the U. So Fonseca was also very clear that securing Nicaragua's liberation implied a struggle with imperialism itself. The Somoza family's rotten, spurious regime lacked any legitimacy whatsoever. Fonseca was convinced that no reformist, social democratic style collaboration with such a regime was possible.

He believed only armed struggle of and by Nicaragua's people would replace the dictatorship with a truly democratic republic. Sandinismo is a fundamental element of Fonseca's political thought.


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It was thanks to his insistence that the history, figure and ideas of Sandino were incorporated in the name, the ideology and the historical definition of the FSLN, the political military movement he founded in the beginning of the s which later became the movement responsible for leading Nicaragua towards its true constitution as a modern nation. No account of the political and historical legacy of Carlos Fonseca is complete if it fails to mention the revolutionary mysticism he inherited from Sandino and the region's wider revolutionary history.

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Fonseca lived in an era when those committed to the ideals of social justice and national liberation knew they might well not see the day of victory with their own eyes. Like Sandino himself, Fonseca and his comrades were convinced that they, by giving their own lives, were laying the groundwork whose fruits would be enjoyed only by future generations. The author shies away from probing more deeply into those familial relations and their impact on Fonseca's early radicalism or on his revolutionary asceticism.

Although this is understandable, given the adult-years focus of the book, I am still hopeful that historians will take the challenge of understanding the political and social impact of the hijos por fuera that dot the urban and rural landscapes of twentieth-century Central America. Fonseca's radicalization process was not unusual. He went rapidly from anti-Somocista activist in high school to Partido Socialista Nicaraguense PSN: pro-Moscow communist party militant in the university.

Immediately following the Cuban Revolution, he joined a guerrilla group that the National Guard soundly defeated in a battle in which Fonseca was seriously wounded.

During his exile in Cuba, Fonseca distanced himself from the political positions of the PSN, rejecting their two-stage conception of revolution that emphasized alliances with bourgeois parties and their opposition to armed struggle. Within three years, he would become a founding member of the Frente Sandinista, a political-military organization that immediately launched a doomed guerrilla movement. Throughout the s with the exception of two years of semilegal political work Fonseca and his extremely small group of youthful revolutionaries either organized guerrilla movements that failed, recruited clandestinely for future action, or endured prison.

And they argued over strategy and tactics. One of the most crucial contributions of this biography is Zimmerman's analysis of Fonseca's role as this microscopic movement split into three factions. Uncovering new archival sources, Zimmerman demonstrates that Fonseca had a real grasp of the reasons for the split and fully addressed the weaknesses in each factional position.


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  • Yet, following his death in combat in , the factional conflict became significantly worse