Mandel gave the following interview to panorama, in which he talks of some political aspects of the international
situation, and in particular, of those related to Central
What are the main features of the international crisis?
We can narrow the problem down to two levels, two
distinct fields, although there is an evident interrelation
political field and the economic field.
Imperialism suffered a tremendous defeat with the victory
of the Indochinese revolution in 1975.
This defeat had internal consequences inside the US
giving rise to the so- called Vietnam syndrome, as the Yankees
call it, which implies that for at least a limited period, three
or four years, there is a near paralysis of the international
capacity for intervention on the part of North American
repeat: the source of this paralysis was political and not
military; militarily, imperialism has continued the arms race,
even in this period. There
were sufficient forces, there was no lack of them.
But the political will was very much weakened as a result
of this Vietnam syndrome; the resistance of the North American
masses to new adventures outside the US borders was tremendous.
political leadership of North American imperialism prepared for
a change, and this change occurred in the final part of the
Carter administration, but with the Reagan administration it was
accentuated and a counterattack was planned: the
military budget was drastically increased, rapid
intervention forces capable of intervening in many parts of the
world were organized, there was a small change in the structure
of the North American armed forces in order to allow for more
rapid, counter-revolutionary interventions in several places
around the world.
say that during the period of the paralysis, the revolution was
able to achieve some impressive successes, of which the downfall
of the Shah of Iran and the fall of Somoza in Nicaragua are the
two outstanding examples against which the imperialist
intervention was limited, not non-existent, but very limited.
However, this period came to an end in 1979-80, and from
that moment on, a new stage in the imperialist counter-offensive
was launched in which, letís say, the intervention in the
Middle East, the support for Israeli aggression against Lebanon
and the Palestinian resistance and especially the intervention
in Grenada were the most obvious examples.
And in relation to the economic field?
the victory of the Sandinista revolution and the extension of
the revolutionary process in El Salvador and Guatemala,
imperialismís determination to avoid the consolidation of the
Nicaraguan revolution and to oppose at all cost new
revolutionary victories, especially in El Salvador, tremendously
increased international attention to this part of the world, and
here we have to make the connection, the interrelationship with
the economic aspect of the question.
crisis, the long-term depression which the international
capitalist economy has experienced since 1974, ten years ago,
reached a new recession in 1980, 1981, 1982, in the US and the
other imperialist countries.
Brazil, South Korea, the dependent semi-industrialized countries
were hit a little bit later, in 1982, 1983.
And when there was a first recession in the context of
this long depression, in 1974-75, imperialism was looking for a
way out, letís say a reduction in the extent of the crisis,
increasing credits to the countries of the so-called Third World
and the so-called socialist countries in order to be able to
increase their exports to these two zones.
This brought about an accumulation of debts which
provoked a panic at the beginning of the 1980ís at not being
able to recuperate payments of these debts, including the
interruption of such payments with all the consequences which
you know and which I wonít go into here.
that with the recession of 1980-83, a partial recuperation in
the sense of once again increasing exports to the Third World
and to the so-called socialist countries was impossible.
Then, imperialism had to seek a substitute market, and it
found it in the sensational increase in military expenditures.
It was the
economic logic of the system which determined the acceleration
of the arms race. And
this obviously had a much deeper aspect than preparing
counter-revolutionary interventions in regions such as Central
America, the Middle East or Central Africa; it took the form of
placing new missiles with nuclear warheads in Western Europe
directed against the USSR and the preparation of Reaganís
famous star wars, that is, an entire new phase of the arms race
on a world scale.
expenditures are very high; they represent practically the only
source of the budget deficit of the United States which is 200
billion dollars each year during the past three or four years.
These are fantastic figures, and they represent an
obvious danger since the new nuclear systems which are being
built are continually more automated with possibilities for
reconsideration continually more limited before unleashing a
It is said,
I donít know if itís true, these are speculations made by
technicians, but itís said that with the current type of
missiles there are only 20 minutes between when signals are
received Ė and they can even be false alarms Ė and the
automatic response: 20 minutes for reconsideration before saving
the world from a nuclear holocaust isnít much.
a military, political, and especially an economic pressure on
the Soviet Union: pressure because the Soviet Union has a gross
national product considerably smaller than that of the US,
letís say about half, which is to say that the same amount of
military expenditures in the two countries means that for the
Soviet economy it represents a much greater weight than for the
US economy, and if these expenditures are increased, letís say
from 20 to 40 percent, the damage to the Soviet economy, to the
Soviet government and population is obvious.
It imposes very tragic reductions in the standard of
living or in terms of industrial investments in order to keep
pace with the North American military expenditures.
What is the US government seeking with these policies?
Two things or a combination of the two.
It hopes to provoke social crisis within Soviet society
and inside Eastern Europe through the stagnation and reduction
of the living standards of the population, but it especially
hopes to force the Soviet leadership to take certain positions
around some conflictive zones in different parts of the world:
the Middle East and Central America; especially these two areas,
in terms of not intervening, of neutralization, which would all
help the counter-revolutionary intervention by imperialism.
the two main features of imperialist policies, which are a
product of the change which took place in the world situation in
1975. But they are
combined with autonomous processes of social struggles and
social explosions. The
imperialists donít control everything; they donít control
the historical process; they donít control what takes place in
the world; they have their intervention in the framework of the
class struggle and in the framework of the anti-bureaucratic and
anti-imperialist struggles which develop on a world scale
independently of their own plans.
the victory of the Sandinista revolution was not foreseen by the
imperialists; they calculated on replacing Somoza with another
bourgeois regime and their plan failed; it wasnít successful.
The victory of the Sandinistas in Managua radically
changed the situation for them in Central America; it gave an
objective stimulus Ė this has nothing to do with intervention
and military aid Ė it gave an objective stimulus to the
revolutionary process in El Salvador and other countries in
Central America which in turn unleashed independent,
uncontrollable and autonomous processes which US imperialism has
had to contend with.
do you view the Central America situation?
The most explosive situation is in El Salvador.
Imperialism is trying to prevent a military victory,
combining military aid for the right-wing, counter-revolutionary
forces together with political maneuvers such as returning the
Christian Democracy of Duarte to power.
But again it is confronted with complications, political
and social conflicts which it hasnít been able to resolve.
Salvadorian right-wing didnít accept and doesnít accept a
pseudo-reformist or semi-reformist variant in terms of a
governmental solution in El Salvador because it fears, because
itís frightened of any possibility of the development Ė
including legal or semi-legal Ė of the mass movement of
self-defense of the movementís rights, of its immediate
interests, including even minimal economic rights.
Salvadorian army doesnít seem capable on its own accord of
blocking the developments of the revolutionary forces.
conditions, the need of imperialism to intervene with its own
military force is on the rise, and this need involves it in a
continually more direct confrontation with the revolution, not
only in Nicaragua, but also in El Salvador.
This in turn
sets off a process of extension of the revolution to other zones
in the region or zones of the periphery of the region: the
Mexican, Colombian, and Venezuelan bourgeoisies, which are the
three most important bourgeoisies, shall we say, the most
powerful, who live on the borders of Central America, are
frightened by the revolutionary process which is knocking at
their door; for this reason they are interested in avoiding
military confrontations that are too explosive in nature.
That is the main reason behind the Contadora.
At the same
time they are interested in limiting and blocking the
revolutionary process as well; they want to block the two
phenomena: the counter-revolution and the armed revolution, that
is, the military conflict, the military explosion and the
At the same
time itís very important for imperialism that there exist
conditions of relative political stability in a country such as
Mexico or Venezuela. For
this reason they donít want to have an immediate, direct,
frontal confrontation with the maneuvers of the constitutional
governments of these countries around the question of Central
But in the
opposite sense, we have social tensions as a consequence of the
economic crisis, as a result of the crisis of the international
debt, as a result of the solutions proposed by the International
Monetary Fund: the austerity policies, the brutal reduction in
the standard of living of the masses in all countries of Latin
America in order to be able to reduce imports and increase
exports to obtain funds for the debt repayment.
tensions, even social explosions, such as
we have just seen in Brazil, in the Dominican Republic,
in Jamaica in the last few days, that imperialist and the
national bourgeoisies donít control, and this too is an
element in an uncontrollable situation, an autonomous element
which makes the situation more complicated for imperialism.
balance sheet of all this, I would say that although the threats
of an imperialist intervention are strong, a very concrete
threat for our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua, although we
must maintain the mobilization of the people against this very
real threat as a permanent feature, we must understand that
imperialism does not control the historical process, and that
this process is in the hands of the revolutionaries and the
masses, and that today it is possible to offer an independent
revolutionary solution to this situation in Central America with
many possibilities of extending it to several and some very
important countries of Latin America.