NICARAGUA: THE SORRY PATH OF SANDINISM
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Nicaragua: The Sorry Path of Sandinism
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After almost forty years of political stability and virtually absolute social peace in contrast to the turbulence of neighbouring countries, a period of profound political and social instability has opened in Nicaragua. The combined factors of the present international economic crisis and the post World War II period of capitalist accumulation in Central America, under the sponsorship of United States imperialism, has thrown the working masses into the depths of poverty. With the massive expropriation of land by the great landowners, the peasant masses have lost their minuscule holdings, their only regular means of survival, and have been forced to concentrate in miserable shantytowns, where their only hope is to possibly find seasonal work, a few months out of the year, in the large coffee, cotton and sugar cane plantations. The revolt which has shaken Nicaragua is the expression of this condition of generalised misery. This situation furthermore is not unique to Nicaragua, but general throughout this whole region.
The events in Nicaragua, which we will analyse in the following pages, constitute the first great sparks of working class revolt which in the coming period must necessarily engulf all of Central America, the whole Caribbean area and the rest of the Latin American continent as well, and whose shock waves cannot but contribute to the arousing of the great proletarian ally to the North in the nerve centre of imperialism.
The Roots of the Revolt
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During the last 40 years order was maintained in Nicaragua by the Somoza regime and its professional army, set up and placed in power by American imperialism soon after dissipating the peasant revolt which has been linked to the name of Augusto Sandino. The first serious and lasting cracks in the regime date from the early 1970's. They were widened by the terrible earthquake of 1972, which destroyed 75% of the capital city, 95% of the shops and small enterprises, as well as eleven of the largest factories (it is estimated that 40% of the total production was destroyed). But this natural catastrophe only aggravated the rampant economic crisis. In particular, the agricultural crisis that broke out in 1967 has become sharper every year.
The reconstruction of Managua, the «biggest business» in the history of Nicaragua, contributed to the further growth of these cracks, especially by rupturing the political unity of the ruling classes which until then had been solidly behind the Somoza regime. This resulted from the fact that the Somoza clique took advantage of the affair, and even created an ad hoc bank to channel international aid. When the bourgeoisie was excluded from the distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, when it was saddled with draconian conditions on Somoza-financed loans of the money necessary for the reconstruction of ravaged businesses, and finally, when it was hit with heavy under-the-table supplementary taxes for reconstruction, the bourgeoisie decided this was too much. This is how it suddenly became democratic and organised in an opposition movement. Its first public manifestation took place in March 1974 in the form of the First Congress of Private Initiative, which, according to the organisers, enjoyed the support of 90 % of the country's manufacturing and commercial sector. The Congress' resolution quite naturally demanded three essential things from the Somoza government: fiscal reform; the right to participate in government decision-making (read: the right to get its hands indiscriminately on the enormous capital hoarded by Somoza); and the recognition of trade union organisations. The latter demand by no means flows from a fraternal sympathy for the workers, but from the fact that the workers themselves had been set in motion with their own demands.
In fact, the earthquake of 1972 not only left the proletarians of Managua homeless and in extreme desperation, but it also contributed to a galloping inflation. Furthermore, the thirst for profit among the rebuilders of the capital city compelled the government to try to increase the workweek from 48 to 60 hours. Hence it was the employed proletarians who broke the social peace with a wave of strikes from the end of April 1973 onwards. The movement acquired such a strength that Somoza's brutal repression could not control it, but instead only succeeded in helping it to grow. Unable to contain the movement by force, the Somoza regime had to give in to the strikers' demands at the end of May. The proletarians went back to work, but their state of agitation by no means ended at that, because by the end of 1973 and early 1974 new strikes had broken out, now no longer limited to single factories.
When they saw the potential of this strike wave, the opposition capitalists demanded the recognition of trade unions. They understood that a force had to be created which could control the young Nicaraguan proletariat, now that it had made such a vigorous debut on its own terrain for the first time in the history of the country.
It was only when this wave had completely receded that the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) decided to step on to the scene, executing a spectacular feat. On December 27, 1974 it held almost the whole Somoza government hostage and forced it to meet all its demands, especially the release of imprisoned Sandinist leaders. But because this mission was carried out just when the movement had begun to dissipate and without any preparation of the masses for Somoza's inevitable revenge, it could only result in a terrible blood bath, which halted the social movement for three years.
Immediately after the hostage incident Somoza mounted the counterattack. He initiated a mass arrest of the workers who had distinguished themselves during the strikes, set up military tribunals, and declared martial law. He ordered a large anti-guerrilla operation with the active participation of American «counter-insurgency» experts permanently stationed at Fort Gulick, Panama, cleaning up residential quarters and villages where the Sandinistas might have had bases, and interning hundreds of proletarian and peasant families in concentration camps. The operation resulted in more than 3.000 proletarians assassinated or reported «lost». The FSLN tactic of «hit and run» already proved to what extent it went against the interests of the mass movement!
There were new social disturbances in mid-1977, and these culminated in the uprising of August-September 1978. The animating spirit of the movement was in the shantytowns where workers were crammed together with uprooted peasant masses that had been proletarianized especially since the rapid capitalist development of the 1960's. It is these proletarianized masses, rather than the industrial workers as such, which constitute the bulk of the Nicaraguan proletariat. Their movement became broader and broader from early 1978.
The obvious catalyst was the January 10, 1978 assassination, on Somoza's orders, of the leader of the bourgeois opposition, Pedro Chamorro, who had become too dangerous a competitor (the American ambassador favoured him for the presidential elections which were to take place three years later, in accordance with Somoza's plan for democratisation). The next day the streets of Managua were invaded by demonstrators who set fire to American banks and Somoza's businesses, such as the textile factory «El Porvenir» and the sinister «Plasmaferesis», which was devoted to traffic in human blood. This is how the name «celulas de fuego» (fire cells) was coined to designate the small groups that proliferated for a time everywhere.
When none of its trade union demands were satisfied by Somoza, the bourgeoisie found itself obliged to follow its original plan: it called the «strike» itself, and moreover, paid the workers for their days on strike! It hoped that the workers would spend their paid «holidays» at home as it had told them to. But its hopes quickly turned to despair, for the strikers not only took to the streets, but under the table, they took advantage of the opportunity to pose their own demands, as was the case with the agricultural workers of «Ingenio San Antonio»(a sugar cane complex in the Chinandega region, the largest enterprise in Nicaragua with 20.000 workers) who, exhibiting a total lack of interclassist scruples, demanded a wage increase. Out of fear of being taken advantage of, the bourgeoisie suspended the «strike» on February 6 (it had begun on January 24). But two days after the strike was called off between 20% and 25% of the factories were still shut down.
The movement didn't stop there. The demonstrations continued throughout the country, particularly during the ceremonies held to lay the soul of pious don Chamorro to rest. The murder of a young demonstrator and resident of the shantytown of Monimbo by the National Guard on February 22 touched off a chain reaction of uprisings that continued until the end of the month. The movement began in Monimbo, then extended to Diriamba, Managua, Chinandega, and Leon (in the Shantytown of Subtiava). However, the movement was strongest in Monimbo, an Indian shantytown of the city of Masaya. The residential quarter was seized by the masses who, with stones, sticks, machettes, and a few rare rifles as their only weapons, resisted the attacks of a National Guard armed to the teeth, The local garrison was kept in check for several days and it had to call in reinforcements from the capital. Only after these had arrived, equipped with light cannon and supported by armour and helicopters dropping incendiary bombs, was the uprising crushed. The result of two days of fighting was 200 dead and several hundred wounded and missing. Monimbo was almost completely razed, Nonetheless, at the end of August, Masaya revolted again.
It was only on the occasion of this new wave, which became a real insurrection, that the FSLN again appeared. At the beginning of the year it had only led attacks at Granada and Rivas, situated outside centres of agitation. On February 22 it took several congressmen hostage in the Palacio Nacional. This detonated the powerful explosion of the poor masses, who, in their state of extreme tension, took the Sandinistas exploit to be the signal for the final attack against the Somoza regime, since the sermons of the priests, the bosses, the petty-bourgeois, the reformists, the Sandinistas - in short, the whole democratic riffraff - pointed to this despised dynasty as the source of their misery. Undoubtedly the bourgeoisie had sensed a new explosion, because it had been engaged in careful preparations, revealed by a leader of the Enlarged Opposition Front (FAO) in the September 11, 1978 issue of the Spanish newspaper El Pals, for launching another «general strike» at the beginning of the same week as the Sandinistas' action. The offensive obliged the bourgeois «leaders» to put off the «strike» for a few days. Once again they hoped to channel the revolt into a dead end, and once again their manoeuvre fell short of its mark.
The explosion began at Matagalpa and spread like wildfire to all the important cities: Maysaya, Chinandega, Leon, Esteli, Jinotepe, Managua, etc. For a few days the masses, almost barehanded, stood up to the heavily armed and well trained National Guard. For the first time the FSLN participated in the uprising alongside the masses. In spite of whatever the bourgeois press (or leftist stupidity) would like us to believe, the movement was by no means the work of the FSLN, for the latter merely attached itself to the spontaneous movement of the masses. In fact this is precisely what one of the principal figures in the Sandinistas, Victor Tirado, admitted to the Colombian review Alternativa:
«We, the Sandinistas, took over the leadership of a popular insurrection that broke out simultaneously in the cities».
But if they «took over the leadership», it was not in order to organise and prepare the masses for the inevitable confrontation with the National Guard and give them a political leadership. They buttressed themselves on the movement in order to obtain recognition from the bourgeois opposition and even from American imperialism. By precipitating the masses onto the path of armed struggle, the Sandinistas led them straight into a new massacre. And the massacres suffered by the masses in each of the insurgent towns, one after the other, were further facilitated by the tactics of the FSLN. No sooner had it attracted an immense enemy force to each town by the massive implantation of its own troops (on the pretext of dispersing the enemy!) then it abandoned the inhabitants to the approaching horde, leaving the masses without the slightest means of defence. In their hasty retreat the Sandinistas even took with them tens and hundreds of inhabitants who had distinguished themselves in combat, that is, the vanguard of the local masses.
The Civil War - 1979
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During the insurrection of August-September 1978, the FSLN merely inserted its own military actions into a spontaneous uprising of the masses in order to bring the revolt under its control. However in the new popular explosion, which began in June 1979, it was different. This time the Sandinistas were not taken by surprise. Their intervention undoubtedly had a greater specific gravity than the spontaneous mass revolt, which they consequently succeeded in channelling away from its original course by subordinating it to their general political «strategy». They could achieve this because during the 8-month interval between the two uprisings, the FSLN was able to create an «internal»organisational structure numerically as well as geographically much more extensive and much more effective than before, and to forge closer ties with the masses, chiefly by means of a system of residential committees.
This organisation and officering of the masses, far from being employed for the destruction of even the last semi-colonial remnants of which Somoza was only one manifestation among many - and they certainly were never employed for the destruction of capitalism, which we never expected of the FSLN - were utilised by the Sandinistas for their own specific purpose, contrary to what even the far left press tries to prove: they were used as a means of pressure in negotiations in order to force American imperialism to accept the participation of the FSLN in the «negociated solution» of the «Nicaraguan crisis», and in order to reach compromises with the very parties they should have considered as their mortal enemies.
The desire to «obtain recognition» by the United States is made explicit in the interview granted by FSLN historical leader Tomas Borge to the Spanish newspaper El Pais in January 1979, where he suggests that the diplomatic intervention of the United States after the events of September 1978 to serve as an intermediary between Somoza and the bourgeois opposition was a setback:
«The United States», he said, «was unable to find a formula which would resolve the Nicaraguan conflict in accordance with its interests... To a large extent this fact is a result of the attempt to put out of the way in an artificial manner an objective reality, such as the existence of Sandinism as the total force of public opinion. It is really absurd to have pretended to solve the problem [here, in the language of the bourgeois, «revolution» is reduced to a «problem»!] without the co-operation of the FSLN».
As for Humberto Ortega, now commander-in-chief of the Sandinista popular army, this is what he declared in El Pais on April 28, 1979:
«It is going to be very difficult to hold the people in check (!); they are already quite
radicalised... The only force capable of avoiding chaos in Nicaragua and instability in the region is the FSLN».
The Sandinistas' activities in Managua bring this «strategy of negotiation» into relief, and show how catastrophic it was for the working masses. The «Sandinist offensive» was launched in the month of May. One month later, Managua, which had been relegated to a secondary importance by the Sandinistas, revolted. On June 8, the first clashes began and by June 10 practically the entire city was in revolt. The violence of the explosion can be measured by the speed of the advance of the battlefront. On June 13, the fighting had moved to within 1.000 meters of Somoza's bunker. But at the very moment when the nerve centre of the Somoza regime could have been paralysed by a decisive blow, rather than drawing their reserves into the attack, the Sandinistas halted the spontaneous offensive, retreated, and held the masses back in the suburbs of the city. If they had been truly revolutionary the Sandinistas would have taken advantage of this favourable moment to crush Somoza. But the Managua uprising didn't enter into the initial plans of the Sandinistas; as one of their leaders explained, it happened «too soon» for them! The FSLN intended first to gain control of the major provincial towns in order to force American imperialism to grant it recognition, and then, once it had succeeded in controlling more «positions» than the Somoza regime, to force the same imperialism to allow it to take power, with all the necessary concessions.
The FSLN programme called for negotiating the seizure of power. But since the programmatic proclamations were not enough for American imperialism, the FSLN had to prove in deed that:
1) It hadn't the slightest intention of «making a revolution» (and principally to overthrow the state, in the reassurance that Nicaragua would not be a new Cuba);
2) It was capable of controlling the masses; and
3) It was capable of governing.
Evidently the sublime tolerance with which the Sandinistas respected Somoza's right to decide for himself the moment when he would leave, the cynical use of populated areas as a shield from the National Guard's artillery bombardments, and the arrogant sacrifice of the poorly armed but courageously devoted proletarian inhabitants of these areas as shock troops against Somoza's ruthless war machine, made a favourable impression on the severe conscience of Wall Street. Barely two days after the offensive of the Managtia masses had been halted (i.e. on June 16, 1979) Washington recognised the FSLN as a legitimate opposition element, which, in that capacity, would be allowed to participate in the quest for a solution to the crisis in Nicaragua. Next Washington called a meeting of the OAS, which Somoza baptised with a veritable carnage in the streets of Managua. At that meetings, Cyrus Vance personally advocated the replacement of Somoza by a government of «National Reconciliation» which would mark a «clean break with the past», and threatened an American intervention in order to allow the FSLN to give proof of its new concessions.
Subsequently the USA began to bring considerable pressure to bear on Somoza in order to persuade him to abandon power, but at the same time allowing him the time necessary to perform a blood bath on the masses, particularly in the capital, which would ensure order for some time to come. The outcome of the massacre, a mere 40.000 dead!!! On June 27 the new American negotiator, Bowdler, arrived in Managua without bothering to present his credentials to Somoza. His mission was to force Somoza to resign, following the officious pronouncements in Washington. As the new negotiator was arriving the FSLN was making an unexpected withdrawal of its forces from the suburbs of the capital, leaving the inhabitants disorganised and stupefied in the face of the concentrated repression of the National Guard. The same fateful day it announced its intention to form a State Council of 30 members, in which «all the currents representative of the anti-Somoza struggle» would be represented. Vance's fundamental condition had been met.
On July 9 the FSLN, now already in control of the major towns in the country, began its advance on Managua. On July 10 its forces camped about one day's march from Managua and stayed put, fixed, hoping that Bowdler would make Somoza resign!
On July 12 the Junta met with Bowdler again, and after this session the Junta declared itself ready to adopt a «more flexible position without compromising our principles» (one wonders what principles!) given that... the military situation was favourable! In return the Junta offered Bowdler a plan for replacing Somoza. Somoza would resign and power would pass to the Congress, which in turn would recognise the Sandinista-bourgeois provisional government. Bowdler rejected the plan, most certainly to allow Somoza enough time to inflict his lesson of terror on the masses paralysed by the FSLN, which remained parked tranquilly a day away from the capital. Bowdler asked for yet another meeting, which was held on July 14 in a very cordial atmosphere, and which he called a «stept forward».
Meanwhile in the night of July 16 Somoza resigned, relinquishing power to the President of the Congress, the grotesque Francisco Urcuyo, as provided for in the Sandinista plan. Obviously the «step forward» was Bowdler's acceptance of the plan and his determination to remove Somoza. But it is also clear that Bowdler exacted his price for the agreement by being assured a few «men of confidence» in the key posts of the Provisional Government, as well as other guarantees. In fact a number of the members of the government have direct links with the United States. It is not surprising that this cabinet, according to the French newspaper, Le Monde,
«is considered to be moderate even among the Somoza milieu».
Just two days after Somoza's resignation, July 19, the Sandinista forces entered Managua. The National Guard surrendered without resistance.
The Sorry Path of Sandinism
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Somoza's retreat and the consolidation of the present Government of National Reconstruction have confirmed in practice the shameful theoretical surrender of the FSLN to the ultra-counterrevolutionary bourgeois opposition. Moreover, this surrender had been foreshadowed long ago in the programmatic schema of the FSLN by a series of contemptible betrayals and by an irresistible tendency toward the most insipid reformism.
This tendency can be verified by comparing the proclamations of guerrilla warfare promulgated from the heights of the tropical cordillera before the social crisis broke out with the positions adopted by the Sandinistas gradually after the explosion. It is evident that, by their petty-bourgeois substance manifest in the democratic principles, in the interclassism, and in the nationalism which stand out clearly above the assertion of the continental character of the revolutionary struggle, the early positions of the Sandinistas already contained their future tendencies in embryo. However we must add that in spite of this, in their early period, the revolutionary aspects of Sandinism (the call for insurrection against imperialism, etc.) dominated over their conservative aspects.
We can show briefly how this tendency towards the most vulgar bourgeois reformism took shape in the FSLN programme. In 1969 that programme defined the objective of the organisation as follows:
«The FSLN is a politico-military organisation whose objective is the seizure of political power by means of the destruction of the bureaucratic and military apparatus of the dictatorship, to be accomplished by the establishment of a revolutionary government based on the alliance of workers and peasants and on the participation of all the anti-imperialist forces of the country».
But then came the economic and social crisis, and with it the eruption of the worker and peasant masses which the Sandinistas defined as the basis of the revolutionary government. The Sandinistas were forced to translate their revolutionary words into revolutionary deeds. However, confronted by harsh reality, the guerrillist, anti-imperialist dreams burst, and the Sandinistas set about changing their lyrics. Consequently, in 1977, when a new powerful social wave had been set in motion and the FSLN had embarked upon what it is accustomed to calling a «new period» in its activity through its «tercerista» tendency (chronologically the third to emerge within the FSLN, enjoying the support of the Socialist International), it dropped all talk of the struggle for power based upon the support of the working class and the peasantry. Quite the contrary, the conduct of the guerrilla actions now continued under the banner of alliance with the bourgeois opposition. The new phase of offensive initiated by the terceristas began on October 12, 1977, and in connection with it the «Declaration of the 12» appeared. The definition given by Lucha Sandinista (April 1978) is sufficient to characterize the authors: the group is made up of «professional people, intellectuals, factory owners, and Church officials» - the flower of the bourgeoisie. The «Group of 12» became the channel through which the Sandinistas established links with the big bourgeoisie. These links were accompanied by increasingly pronounced and shamefaced programmatic renunciations.
Yesterday's anti-imperialist and anti-oligarchic struggle based on the worker-peasant alliance was put aside. It now became an anti-Somoza struggle, no longer based on well-defined classes but on an alliance with all «anti-Somoza» forces. This was the position taken by the terceristas beginning with their first answer to the «Declaration of the 12»:
«We accept the appeal to participate in a national solution, as does the document of our twelve compatriots, but we must point out that there will be no solution in Nicaragua until Somoza and Somozism have disappeared... Somoza must leave, there must be no more Somozas in the ranks of the army and the government. The deadly apparatus of corruption and crises represented by the dictatorship must be dismantled, and then the FSLN will be disposed to participate in the quest for a national solution with all the other honest, patriotic, and anti-Somoza sectors of the country... Our immediate objective is to ensure that Nicaragua is liberated from the Somoza dictatorship and that the country embarks on a true democratic process» (quoted from Che Guevara no. 3, organ of the Junta of Revolutionary Co-ordination).
In 1978 a programme entitled «Why does the Sandinista Front fight alongside the People?» appeared. The introduction of this programme confirms the renunciation of the «revolutionary» formulation of 1969 in regard to the Front's objectives, now reduced to the banal anti-Somozism expressed in the text just quoted. The formula employed is
«bring a democratic and popular government to power»
(the capitals are in the text), and no longer the «revolutionary seizure of power by the FSLN», as in 1969. In addition to the fact that the principal economic and social measures lost their (vague) anti-imperialist and anti-oligarchic character of 1969 and were replaced by the simple expropriation of Somoza and Co.'s holdings, a few important changes on other cardinal points should be noted.
The Army: the 1969 programme spoke of abolishing the National Guard and creating a «popular, revolutionary, and patriotic army» and of arming the workers, peasants, and students and «other sectors [??] which might organise into popular militias». This is a classical formula of radical petty-bourgeois democracy. In 1978, besides mentioning nothing about suppressing the National Guard (a significant omission), the programme speaks of creating a «new national army», a «democratic and popular» army. At a single blow the revolutionary attribute, undoubtedly too distasteful to the bourgeoisie, as well as the even more distasteful popular militias, have disappeared. We now stand face to face with a classical formulation of bourgeois reformism. But this isn't the worst of it: the attitude toward the constituent parts of the National Guard changes too. The 1969 text says that the revolutionary army will be open to the soldiers of the National Guard on the following conditions: «that they sup ported the guerrilla war», «that their hands were not sullied by revolutionary blood», and that they hadn't «plundered the people». In 1978 these criteria were so obliterated that practically the whole National Guard could be incorporated into the «new democratic army». In fact not only the soldiers, but also the officers could participate, and the condition of admission, in addition to support for the FSLN, was simply reduced to «entering our ranks and yielding to our forces»! (1). To the officers of the National Guard it was in effect: «On the day the bourgeoisie and its master, US imperialism, decide to rid themselves of Somoza, surrender to the Sandinistas and you will keep your jobs! Until then, you may continue to massacre without any fears about your future».
Attitude toward imperialism: the 1969 programme speaks of «putting an end to Yankee interference» and of expelling «the Yankee military mission and the Peace Corps». It devotes a special clause to the
«abolition of the Chamorro-Bryan treaty [which] makes Nicaragua and other countries of central America colonial possessions of Yankee imperialism».
In respect to the foreign debt, it announces that it «will not recognise the usurious loans imposed on the country by Yankee monopolies». In 1978 US imperialism is no longer mentioned, even in passing! And obviously the anti-imperialist measures advocated in 1969 have disappeared, too. It is true that, out of respect for the habits of protocol, the 1978 programme speaks vaguely of «doing away with all foreign interference», without specifying how, or even what is the «foreign» nationality in question, so as not to offend the White House and its front-man, Carter, And instead of the summary checklist of a few of the manifestations of imperialist domination, which the 1969 text proposes to terminate, the 1978 document speaks loosely of «refusing to recognise all the treaties [...] which are hostile to our dignity», a vague, conditional formula which in fact leaves the door open to recognising all treaties. As for the crucial question of the famous «loans» (which are nothing other than a form of imperialist exploitation), no mention is made of them at all! This is no «accidental omission», but a rejection of this measure. As Tomas Borge explained in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais:
«We have an interest in maintaining friendly relations with all peoples and governments of the world, including the United States, of course on the condition that they give our dignity and our sovereignty the most absolute respect. We do not wish to maintain artificial contradictions with anyone [the torments of the colonial yoke are an «artificial contradiction» in the language of these euphemising petty-bourgeois]. One important aspect in this regard is our readiness, already expressed elsewhere, to respect responsibilities accepted previously. We are prepared, without demagogy or extravagance [!], to renegotiate our foreign debt».
Although the 1978 programme represents only one of three tendencies in the FSLN, it reflects perfectly the Sandinistas' propensity toward a complete tailism in relation to the oppositional bourgeoisie, and through this medium, in relation to imperialism, whose servile, impotent creature that bourgeoisie is. This is so obvious that the programme of the United Peoples's Movement (MPU), which provided a basis for the unification of the three tendencies, is clearly copied from the 1978 programme. The MPU was created barely a few weeks after the brutal crushing of the uprising in November 1978, in perfect conformity with the creation, advocated by the terceristas, of a broad anti-Somoza front, that is, an alliance with increasingly broader sectors of the bourgeoisie. Its composition proves this: the 25 organisations contained in it were almost entirely formed of students, artists, intellectuals, professional people, and other bourgeois types.
In general, the MPU programme repeats the same formulations as the 1978 programme on the principal points (eg. army, imperialism). Yet it did take another step forward on the sorry course of Sandinism, which supported the MPU unreservedly (moreover the FSLN was the principal author of the MPU programme), by making certain changes which guarantee the bourgeoisie that it renounces all revolutionary voluntarism.
The second clause («Government»), for example, proposes a government of «democratic unity», and no longer of «popular democratic unity», as in the 1978 programme, which probably had caused the bourgeoisie some shivers over the distasteful recollection of past social explosions. Another significant point that demonstrates the abjectly reformist character of the FSLN is the clause on the juridico-legal structure of the State. Thus point 3 («democratization of the country») states not only that the military hierarchy may keep its status in the new national army, as we saw in the 1978 programme (repeated almost verbatim here), but that the legal and judicial system which gave legal sanction to the «Somoza dictatorship» and sentenced so many militants and workers, would be preserved. In fact, the programme seeks only to «review the judicial system in order to give it a democratic character» and to «suppress administrative corruption and the venality of the judges».
As if all that were not enough, the FSLN (still through the medium of the MPU) offered more guarantees in the same style in the economic sphere. Besides assuring private enterprise the support of the «government of democratic unity», and guaranteeing its participation in the elaboration of a «Plan of Industrial Development» (point 9), it came up with a supplementary proof of its renunciation of the old utopias of the montanero days (point 8, agriculture). It gives the latifundi the assurance that they may abandon their fear of the agricultural, peasant, anti-latifundist revolution advocated earlier by the FSLN. The «thorough going agrarian reform» advocated by the Sandinist as today through the MPU will even help the latifundi! Consequently, to crown the seven measures that comprise this reform (as always, the central point is the confiscation of Somoza's lands), one central point specifies emphatically that the «State will provide loans to all producers (large, middle-sized, and small)». And this from the mouths of the former apostles of the anti-imperialist peasant revolution!
An Appraisal of the «Sandinist Revolution»
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The liquidation of «Somozism» was a real historical necessity for capitalist development in Nicaragua, for this development required a modern bourgeois state representing the interests of the entirety of the ruling classes and thus having a larger social base. Somoza's regime, although having ties with certain bourgeois factions, monopolised power and used it in its own interests of a clique with a national social base composed practically of nothing other than the National Guard, itself set up and trained by U.S. imperialism. Although this regime had been useful in preventing any popular struggle or revolt against imperialist exploitation for forty years, it became in the end an obstacle to the «free play of competition», that is to say, to the «just and equal» exploitation of the sweat and blood of the working masses by all the exploiters (let us recall that the bourgeois opposition was formed in reaction against the «competencia empresaria desleal», that is to say the unfair economic competition of Somoza's regime). The «Sandinist Revolution», because of the FSLN's successive reversals of its previously revolutionary positions, has been limited to the realisation of the bourgeois reformist demand of a change of regime and its only real result has been to place the whole of the ruling classes in power. Its reforms of the state machinery, vaunted by certain «revolutionaries» in the great imperialist nations as «oh, so revolutionary»(the creation of a permanent army, a police force, and organs of «local power», with the latter being only a copy of the local administrative institutions existing in the most vulgar bourgeois democracies, etc) are nothing other than measures of modernisation and reinforcement of the already existing state in a direction which is 100 percent bourgeois.
Economically and socially, the «Sandinist Revolution» has done nothing revolutionary up to the present. All the economic and social relations - and also the dependence vis-à-vis U.S. imperialism - remain unchanged and continue to weight down on the working masses, aggravating their poverty always more. This «revolution» is consequently far below the «constitutional revolutions» of the last century in France (1830 and 1848) which developed and completed the process of bourgeois economic and social transformation by depriving the «backwards» factions of the ruling classes of political power and installing a new regime of the more modern bourgeois factions.
The inability of the «constitutional revolutions» of today to touch on the needed economic and social transformations is linked to the general level of international capitalist development. The bourgeois transformation of Nicaragua, just as of all the other Latin American countries, was carried out during a period where capitalism, on the historical level, had already reached its senile, imperialist stage, suffocating the «backwards» countries and areas under its counterrevolutionary weight.
This is reflected on the level of the class struggle by the lack of all revolutionary energy and initiative on the part of the entire Latin American bourgeoisie which is linked on all levels - political, economic and ideological - to imperialism and to the landed and commercial oligarchies. This is why the Latin American bourgeois not only does not propose any program of radical social transformations, but does not even pose the problem of deposing of the outdated forms of rule - such as Somozism - in a radical way. In fact, the bourgeois opposition in Nicaragua initially sought to negotiate their participation in the government with Somoza. Later, both due to the explosion of the masses, whose hatred towards Somoza's regime prevented any stable solution as long as the Somoza clique remained in power, and due to the intervention of Sandinism whose political weight grew precisely because it appeared in the eyes of the masses as the only anti-somozist force, the bourgeois opposition had to change its strategy and demanded the replacement of Somoza, but always by means of 'a negotiated transfer of power.
In such a situation where significant bourgeois tasks remain to be accomplished but where the bourgeoisie has lost all revolutionary energy, the only bourgeois force capable of taking up a revolutionary struggle is radical petty-bourgeois democracy, as Marxism pointed out over a century ago. To carry out this revolutionary struggle it would have to «take the reins» from bourgeois democracy and assume leadership of the destitute masses of the cities and countryside. But such a revolution, we must emphasise, could only be bourgeois, even if the radical democratic party cloaked its ideology with pretendedly socialist phraseology.
The significance of the recent events in Latin America is that it has become clear that due to the terrible weight of imperialism and due to the evolution of Castroism in the direction of the maintenance of the status quo in Latin America and in the world, even the petty bourgeoisie in Latin America has been drained of any revolutionary potential, We see today that the FSLN - the last Mohican of guerillism, the form taken by radical petty-bourgeois democracy in Latin America - has lost its revolutionary pretentions by its alliance with openly counter-revolutionary bourgeois factions. The result of the capitulation of the petty-bourgeois leadership - and with the lack of a proletarian party which could lead and organise the working mass against all of its enemies, for the realisation of all its needs - has been to reduce a movement with tremendous revolutionary potential to a caricature of a revolution, incapable of satisfying even the smallest needs of the masses, who were the true heart of the revolt. The FSLN in fact, as we have seen above, in the end submitted the social movement to a negotiated replacement of Somozism, just as the bourgeois opposition had attempted to do.
If the Sandinist victory represents a historical step forward it is not because the Sandinista and the provisory government represent revolutionary social forces. It is rather because this victory marks the end of a historical period, the democratic-popular wave of the 60's, and can only mark the beginning of a new era on the continental level, the era of the struggles of the proletariat in its own name.
The victory of Sandinism, at the same time, is the swan song of Latin American petty-bourgeois democracy, the most crying expression of the inevitable and irreversible downfall of this current as a revolutionary tendency, which has gone as far as to deny its own origins and its very reason for existence - the struggle against imperialism and the agrarian revolution - in face of a struggle of the proletarian and peasant masses which it had pretended to represent. This is a lesson which can be drawn not only for the struggle of the masses of Nicaragua but for the struggle of the masses of all of Latin America. The resurgence of the Latin American proletariat opens a new historical period which can only bring to the front of the political scene once more the programmatic objectives established by the Communist International for the two Americas in 1920, in the heat of the last great period of world wide proletarian revolution: revolutionary unity against the united front (political, economic and social) of U.S. imperialism and the Latin American ruling classes, that is to say a united revolutionary struggle against the continental pillar of the American world empire.
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Source: «Communist Programm«, nr.6, september 1980
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