Saturday, July 21, 2007
The first six chapters of Joseph Collins' What Difference Could A Revolution Make?: Food and Farming in the New Nicaragua sets the story of the transformation of a ruthless political legacy in a new Nicaragua. When the Sandinistas took over the Somoza authoritarian rule 28 years ago, it inherited a nation wherein the dominant land ownership of a tiny elite resulted to widespread malnutrition and poignant poverty, among other social ills. As a solution, the revolutionary government used the logic of the majority that meant equitable distribution of the land and a sufficient food for everyone.
Contrary to notorious images of gun-wielding ideologists associated with revolutionaries, the Sandinistas are portrayed as conscientious and industrious officials determined at attaining food self-adequacy, apart from eradicating the country of the paralyzing billion-dollar foreign debt accumulated during the Somoza dictatorship.
The Sandinista government bravely opposed the idealistic policy of land to the people, conscious that a cash-crop economy cannot be dismissed at once. What it did was to escalate export-earnings in order to have enough time to devise a basic foods scheme. Instead of land to the people, the motto was practically changed to land to whomever works it, a program that still left majority of Nicaragua's arable farm in the private sector.
The Sandinista accomplishment told stunning tales: the production and consumption of corn, beans and rice has increased, infant mortality has lowered by 30 per cent and coffe and sugar exportation soared by 10 and 20 per cent, respectively since 1978.
It is not all a success story, however, because private landowners have been generally uncooperative. They use cheap government loans to keep more money to themselves while letting farm land to go idle. Likewise, attacks by former National Guards not only heighten an anxious siege consciousness but also divert scant resources from the agricultural sector. Also, the balance of pluralism remains delicate as it may give way under the pressure of propaganda from the United States, a violence that threatens everyday to turn into a military reality.
“Nicaragua is a School,” Imagine You were a Nicaraguan,” “The Peasants' Victory,” “No Ownership without Obligation,” The Failed Partneship: Big Growers and the State,” and “Spilling Credit in the Countryside” all contribute to the book's presentation of humane stories of post-revolutionary Nicaragua by focusing on how entirely depoliticized its government's food and farming program is. The Sandinistas show in action what ideologists explain in philosophy. The Nicaraguan revolution is not perfect but its imperfections, besides being easily refuted, may even be useful.
Being a Third World country too like Nicaragua, the Philippines can learn the lesson of not just claiming to be concerned about the poor and the hungry. The government should not just launch exorbitant aid-supported schemes supposed to expand food production. It should also recognize the need for change like redistribution of power on fundamental resources so the poor can work for a living. Such changes may come in the guise of a pragmatic and working land reform program, the lenience to movements supporting the local agricultural sector, and an agricultural modernization that benefits the majority and that is not meant to enrich the small elite or to pit our farmers against the rapacious globalization competitions.