THE OVERTHROW of the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 has undoubtedly helped to fan a new wave of revolutionary struggle throughout Central America. The Sandinista victory rekindled the idea of insurrectionary struggle among the young fighters battling against the dictatorships and repressive regimes of Latin America. The undoubted social advances which have been made in Nicaragua since 1979 have also inspired those fighting against capitalism around the world.
Historical reprint from 1984 to mark the 25th anniversary of the Sandinista’s coming to power. The article was first publish in Militant International Review, forerunner ot Socialism Today, magazine of the Socialist Party, cwi in England and Wales. socialistworld.net
Marxism and the Nicaraguan revolution
ARISING OUT of the Autumn 1983 issue of the Militant International Review, which was dedicated exclusively to the revolutionary process in Latin America, we are pleased to see that there has been quite a lot of discussion among our readers.
One of the issues which has given rise to the keenest interest has been the position taken by this journal on the revolutionary developments in Central America in general, and Nicaragua in particular.
For reasons of space, and because the main question under consideration was the revolution in Latin America itself, these questions were only touched upon in passing. For a more detailed account of our position on Central America, we refer our readers to the article written by Ted Grant in the Militant (5 August, 1983, No. 662).
In view of the interest expressed in this issue, we publish here a further contribution to the discussion, by Bob Labi, which has special relevance to the problems of the Nicaraguan revolution. Editor
This has also enabled the Sandinistas to develop a wide following in many countries. The fundamental basis for this support is the absolutely firm desire among socialists and workers to defend the Nicaraguan revolution against reaction, especially the US financed counterrevolutionaries. But at the same time Marxists cannot be mere cheerleaders. It is vitally necessary to draw the correct lessons from every struggle and so enhance the working class’s understanding of the tasks it faces in struggling to overthrow capitalism.
Unfortunately, there are those in the labour movement, and particularly on the sectarian fringes, who let their enthusiasm for the Nicaraguan revolution -take the place of Marxist analysis. This is not a new phenomenon. It is similar to the uncritical, or virtually uncritical, support which many self-proclaimed "Marxists" gave to Stalin in the 1930s, Tito in the late 1940s and Mao in the 1960s. These people completely forgot, or never knew, the fundamentals of Marxism in their rush to idealise these regimes. Because of the obvious and important gains represented by the revolution, which we fully support, many comrades, particularly among the youth, have tended to develop an entirely idealised conception both of the nature of the Nicaraguan revolution, and of the class character and role of the Sandinista leadership. We do not for a moment deny the heroism of the Sandinistas, or the sincerity of their intentions. However, Marxist analysis does not base itself on examining the personal qualities of the Sandinista leadership, but rather on the question of whether or not the proletariat, as a class, is in power in Nicaragua. The fact that at the present time there is overwhelming support for the Sandinista regime does not automatically mean that the working class is in power. Similarly the fact that the Sandinista leadership make speeches about socialism does not result in Marxists adopting an uncritical approach to then:. We do not judge people merely by what they say but,, more importantly, by what they do.
The general impression is created that the Sandinistas are somehow "carrying through the socialist revolution". But what does the socialist. revolution really consist of`? Above all else the socialist revolution is the conscious movement of the working class to take power into its hands. The working class exercises its control over society through a workers’ democracy, based on the principles developed in the 1871 Paris Commune, the first period of the Russian revolution and the 1956 Hungarian revolution. These principles, expressed by Lenin in State and Revolution, provide the litmus test as to whether or not a socialist revolution has taken place. Summarised briefly these principles are:
- No standing army, but the armed people.
- All officials, managers etc. to be regularly elected by the workers’ organisations, with the immediate right of recall.
- All officials to receive the same wages as a skilled worker.
- Popular participation in all administrative duties; the direct management and control of society by workers’ councils (Soviets).
The Stalinist political counter-revolution in Russia during the 1920s crushed the workers’ democracy based on these principles which had existed in Russia and attempted to bury forever these four points of Lenin.
The degeneration of the Russian revolution and the development of Stalinist regimes in other countries following the Second World War also gave rise to great confusion within the international labour movement as to what constitutes a socialist revolution and a socialist society. The enhanced strength of Stalinism after 1945, the delay in the revolution in the advanced capitalist countries and the postwar weakness of the forces of Marxism resulted in the distorted development of the revolution in many countries.
The revolutions which took place in Eastern Europe, China, Vietnam, Cuba, Syria, Ethiopia etc, certainly led to the overthrow of capitalism (something which still cannot be said to have occurred in Nicaragua, although it is not excluded in the future). Private ownership of the means of production was replaced by nationalised economies with planned production. That certainly represented a gigantic step forward, and, as such, was welcomed by the Marxists. However, the distorted way in which these revolutions were carried out inevitably led to the establishment of one party, bureaucratic totalitarian police states and a new form of slavery for the working class. This despite the fact that, in the initial stages at least, these regimes all had an extremely "popular" character and were enthusiastically greeted by the masses.
Why did this take place? Was it the product of accident, misunderstanding or "bad luck"? On the contrary, it was rooted in the nature of these revolutions which took place without the conscious leading role of the proletariat, the highest expression of which is the Marxist revolutionary party.
Only the working class, organised in democratic revolutionary councils, or soviets, can lead to the socialist transformation of society. No other class or social group – whether peasants, lumpen proletarians, students, bureaucrats, guerillas or radical army officers – can play the same role. And whenever some other social group attempts to substitute itself for the proletariat in the revolution, the result is a foregone conclusion. Even in the most favourable outcome, where such a movement succeeds in overthrowing landlordism and capitalism, the best which can be hoped for is a new kind of totalitarian bureaucratic slavery which can last for decades until the working class becomes strong enough to overthrow it by a new political revolution and begin to move in the direction of real socialism, by purging the state of bureaucratic parasitism and creating a genuine, democratic workers’ state, or "semi-state", to use Lenin’s own expression, based on workers’ democracy. From the beginning of these `revolutions’ control was firmly in the hands of an elite which sought to create a bureaucratic regime modelled on the Stalinist regime in the USSR. Thus we had the development of what Marxists call proletarian bonapartist regimes in many parts of the world.
However, in the case of Nicaragua, the Sandinista leadership, under the pressure of the Russian and Cuban bureaucracies, has not even carried the process of the expropriation of capitalism to a final conclusion. Because of this policy, it is not completely excluded that capitalist reaction might still succeed in throttling the Nicaraguan revolution at birth. This fact alone illustrates the completely un-Marxist nature of the Sandinista leadership and its narrow, nationalist conception of the revolution as well as the criminal role of Cuban and Russian Stalinism, which do not want to further complicate their relations with US imperialism by being openly seen to support the elimination of capitalism in Central America.
Moscow and Havana have clearly put heavy pressure on the Sandinistas to adopt a "moderate" stand and try to "do a deal" with Washington. That largely explains the vain attempt to conciliate what is left of the Nicaraguan bourgeoisie with all kinds of concessions, which only serve to embolden these brazen counter-revolutionaries and heighten the risk of United States invasion. Far from being a "realistic" policy, it will have disastrous consequences.
If the Sandinistas were genuine Marxist Leninists, they would carry through the revolution to its final conclusion, expropriating the bourgeoisie, and then make a revolutionary appeal to the workers and peasants of Central and Latin America, and also of North America, to come to their aid. On a purely Nicaraguan – or, for that matter, on a purely Central American – basis, there is no possibility for victory. Here the lesson of the permanent revolution is posed point-blank: either the revolution spreads to other countries, beginning with Central and Latin America, or it is doomed. The explosive situation in the entire sub-continent is a powerful reserve for the revolution, provided a bold internationalist revolutionary policy is pursued. But on the basis of illusory "realism", diplomatic manoeuvres and half – policies, there is no hope whatever.
The widespread confusion about the nature of the Nicaraguan regime is based on a superficial appraisal of the great enthusiasm which undoubtedly exists among the masses for the gains of the revolution. Similar enthusiasm existed not only in Yugoslavia, China and Cuba in the early stages of the revolution, but also in Stalin’s Russia in the period of the first Five Year Plans, before the nightmare of the purge trials drowned the last remnants of October in a sea of blood. While the nature of the Sandinista regime is clearly very different from that of Stalin in Russia, it would be a fundamental mistake to imagine either that it represented a genuine workers’ democracy, or that it was capable, on its present course, of evolving in that direction.
Many supporters of the Sandinistas point to the huge growth in popular organisations since 1979 and say that this proves in practice that the Sandinistas cannot develop into a bureaucratic elite. Certainly the growth in these organisations is very impressive, but in reality they do not exercise ultimate power. The real control of Nicaragua is in the hands of the Sandinistas’ own party, the FSLN, which has a very restricted membership.
Out of a total population of only 3,000,000 in Nicaragua there are 100,000 members of the Sandinista Workers’ Federation (CST), 40,000 members in the Rural Workers’ Association (ATC), 70,000 in the farmers union (UNAG), 70,000 in the women’s organisation (AMLAE), 50,000 in the Sandinista youth movement IMJ191, 500,000 in the 12,000 local Sandinista Defence Committees (CDS) and 80,000 in the militia (MPS). IN 1979 only 25,000 workers were in trade unions now there are over 250,000 workers in the CST and other trade unions. The growth of these mass organisations represents an important advance of urban and rural workers, peasants and youth taking the first steps in developing their class consciousness.
But while these organisations have expanded, the FSLN itself has remained very small. It is very hard to find membership figures for the Sandinistas’ own party, but it was reported that in January 1981 the FSLN has 500 members and planned to double this to 1,000 by the summer of 1981. It has also been reported that it is not planned to increase the FSLN membership above 5.000.
Even when the mass organisations have grown rapidly there have been severe limitations on the development of their own internal democracy. Thus the CST (Sandinista Workers’ Federation) held its First Congress in 1983. three and a half years after it was formed!
In reality the Sandinistas’ attitude to the masses is that they are acting on their behalf. Instead of relying on the workers themselves to run society the Sandinista leaders see the workers as `too immature’, thus the FSLN must be kept tiny. That is the reason why no elections for any type of government were organised during the first five years of the revolution.
The Sandinistas’ attitude of getting the masses merely to rubber stamp their decisions was illustrated in their paper Barricada which claimed that the attendance of 500,000 at the rally to mark the first anniversary of Somoza’s overthrow meant that "the people have voted" to approve the FSLN’s policies. We only have to compare this approach to that of the Bolsheviks after 1917 to see that the Sandinistas are light years away from the programme of Lenin and Trotsky.
The Sandinistas point to the huge size of the mass organisations as a sign of the population’s involvement in decision making. But while it is true that there is plenty of local decision making, for example through the CDSs, the major decisions are taken by the tiny FSLN, an organisation which has arbitrarily set a limit on its size irrespective of the qualities of those who may wish to join it.
While Lenin and Trotsky sought to prevent careerists joining the Bolsheviks after coming to power in 1917 they never sought to prevent tried and tested revolutionary workers becoming members. The Sandinista leaders’ approach, apart from displaying a lack of confidence in the working class, carries with it the seeds of the development of a new ruling elite.
At this moment of writing, the Sandinistas are holding elections in Nicaragua. The main purpose of these elections was clearly an attempt to appease US and world imperialism and offer a palm leaf to the internal bourgeois opposition. They have attempted to find some theoretical justification for this policy by resorting to the absolutely false and discredited theory of the "two stages" invented by Stalin. There is no "democratic" bourgeoisie in Nicaragua. The bourgeoisie is on the side of the counter revolutionary "Contras". They have brazenly boycotted the elections and made use of the concessions offered by the Sandinistas as a platform to organise support for armed reaction.
It is clear that these elections will result in an overwhelming victory for the Sandinistas. The bourgeois parties, openly identified with the counter-revolution, ’’ are thoroughly discredited in the eyes of the masses. The correct thing to do under these circumstances would be for the Sandinistas to base themselves on this popular vote of confidence to carry through the revolutionary process to the end, nationalising the property of the reactionary Nicaraguan bourgeoisie on the basis of the democratic administration and control of the working class. The existing mass organisations, trade unions, popular committees could be linked up and broadened to include every section of the working class, housewives, farmers and militiamen to provide the basis of a democratic workers’ state and an invincible bulwark against the counter revolution.
Such a step would have an electrifying effect upon the workers not only of Central and Latin America, but also upon those of the USA itself. Coupled with a revolutionary internationalist appeal, it would have a similar effect to the earthquake produced by the Bolshevik revolution all over the world. And if Nicaragua is a backward peasant country, it should not to be forgotten that Russia then was like India now. The decisive factor here is not the relative weakness of the proletariat in relation to the peasantry (in reality, in Nicaragua, mainly agricultural labourers, which is not at all the same), but the weakness of the leadership of the proletariat in Nicaragua and on a world scale. With a different policy, the outcome would be entirely different.
The failure of the Sandinistas to carry through the revolution to completion by expropriating the existing capitalists means that the direction of the Nicaraguan revolution has not yet been decisively settled. It is not at all excluded that, under certain conditions, the Nicaraguan bourgeoisie, backed up by imperialism, could begin to push the whole process into reverse. The economic dislocation, low living standards and the sabotage of the capitalists themselves, could create discontent among the more backward layers, leading at a certain stage to a counter-revolutionary situation, a split among the Sandinistas and a rightist coup. Paradoxically, it is the policy of Reagan and the threat of open counterrevolution posed by the "Contras" which at present is cutting the ground from under the feet of the internal opposition which is increasingly being tarred with the same brush. The masses may not be quite clear on what they want but they are perfectly clear on what they do not want: they will fight like tigers against any attempt to reimpose the old Somoza dictatorship by armed force.
As we have stated before, if Reagan could wait some years, there might be a serious possibility that the Nicaraguan revolution, stuck half-way, would succumb to its internal contradictions and permit the triumph of bourgeois counter-revolution from within. But the whole point is that Reagan and US imperialism cannot wait. The dangers posed by even a distorted and incomplete revolution in the explosive context of Central America are too great to be tolerated. Everything points in the direction of an open US intervention against both El Salvador and Nicaragua, especially in the likely event of Reagan winning the next election. Unfortunately, the policies of the Sandinista leadership are only preparing the ground for such a turn. Their attempted concessions will have no effect. Only a bold revolutionary policy can stay the hand of imperialism. Only the complete carryirig through of the revolution can guarantee its success. But that cannot be confined to the borders of a tiny, artificial country like Nicaragua. The very survival of the revolution, let alone its development, depends on its rapid spread, at least to the rest of Central America, and then to Latin America, North America, and the rest of the world.
Even the nationalisation and planning of the economy, however, would not be sufficient to define the Nicaraguan regime as "socialist". Despite the unquestionably progressive nature of the nationalised, planned economies of Cuba, China, the USSR and the other deformed workers’ states, the working class is still held in chains under the rule of a privileged bureaucratic elite. And this is inevitably the case where the revolution is carried out by a guerrillaist minority acting in the name of the proletariat, no matter how heroic, sincere or well-meaning these people may be.
Marxism bases itself on the working class, as the only class which can establish socialism, not for any sentimental reasons or as an arbitrary choice, but because of the social role of the proletariat in production and because it is the only class in society with an instinctive socialist, collectivist consciousness, derived from its very conditions of existence. By contrast, the consciousness of the peasant, the intellectual, the , student or the lumpenproletarian, steeped in individualism and moulded in the psychology of the small proprietor, or the army officer, used to the system of command and blind obedience, is least of all fitted for the task of organising society along democratic collectivist lines.
Without workers’ democracy the overthrow of capitalism can only lead to the creation of a regime of proletarian bonapartism. Such a regime while being able to develop society to a certain extent because it rests on a planned nationalised economy, would place before the working class the task of carrying through a new, political, revolution before society could begin to move towards socialism.
The basis of workers’ democracy is that the pro , letariat as a class controls a society. Through its class organisations – trade unions, workers’ councils, political parties – the proletariat (and, in a country like Nicaragua, in alliance with the poor peasantry) determines what takes place. This is the essence of the socialist revolution, the fact that the proletariat, acting as a collective body, takes power. On the other hand guerilla struggle, on its own, can never result in a workers’ democracy because it bases itself on the idea of creating an armed force which will take over the urban areas, the home of the proletariat, from outside.
In other words the guerillaists see the working class playing an auxiliary role, a policy which resulted in a severe defeat for the Salvadorean revolution in 1980. The guerillaist strategy, which is not the same as one based on the need for a working class led insurrection, leads to the guerilla army taking power, not the class organisations of the proletariat. The only way this can be avoided is if the guerilla struggle is seen as an auxiliary to that of the urban working class.
The ruling bureaucratic elites in China, Vietnam and Cuba developed precisely from the leaderships of the victorious guerilla armies. In Nicaragua, although it was the Managua working class which , finally overthrew the Somoza dictatorship in July 1979, political power passed into the hands of the FSLN. Despite the fact that, as Sandinista leader Humberto Ortega has admitted, the movement of the Nicaraguan workers forced the FSLN to change its guerilla strategy of aiming to surround the towns, the Sandinistas were seen as leaders of the revolution by virtue of their long heroic struggle against Somoza. Without workers democracy a decisive break with capitalism in Nicaragua would inevitably lead to the development of a form of proletarian bonapartism (i.e. Stalinism) whatever good intentions the Sandinistas have.
Some people have attempted to justify the Sandinistas’ reluctance to move decisively against capitalism by comparing their economic policies with those of the Bolsheviks in the early 1920s. Any comparison between Nicaragua today and Russia in the early days of the revolution is completely false because, as already has been explained, a regime of workers’ democracy, control through Soviets and a mass Bolshevik party existed at that time under Lenin and Trotsky.
The introduction of the New Economic Policy in 1921, which allowed greater scope to capitalists and rich peasants in Russia, was a retreat in economic policy forced on the Bolsheviks because of the defeat of the socialist revolution in Europe and the devastation caused by the civil war. But despite the NEP the commanding heights of the economy and all foreign trade remained nationalised under the control of a relatively democratic workers’ state. Clearly in a country like Nicaragua, which has a large element of small, petit-bourgeois capitalist producers and traders, Marxists would only advocate the immediate nationalisation of the larger concerns, foreign owned companies, banks and foreign trade. However, the Sandinistas have gone out of their way to try to reassure the local capitalists and the foreign governments that they want to preserve a `mixed economy’.
One of the main FSLN leaders, Tomas Borge, has again and again spoken of the Sandinistas’ desire to maintain a mixed economy. He told the Paris Le Monde that "we don’t talk about political pluralism and a mixed economy to please the Americans. This is our programme." (December 19, 1982.) But in another interview a few days earlier in the Lima La Republica Borge complained that: "We provide the businessmen with many concessions, credits, facilities, but many of them remain discontented. They will not resign themselves to losing political power" (December 12, 1982).
That neatly sums up the dilemma facing the Sandinistas. The 1979 revolution smashed the old state machine, it left the Nicaraguan bourgeoisie with no "armed bodies of men" with which to guarantee their rule. Without such a guarantee in the form of at least a relatively secure capitalist state machine the capitalists will not invest and without investment a capitalist economy cannot function. But instead of removing the major capitalists and beginning to plan the economy the Sandinistas try to appease them, a policy which has been at least partly pushed onto them by the Russian and Cuban leaderships who are reluctant to provoke a confrontation with US imperialism by aiding the establishment of the first proletarian bonapartist regime on the American mainland.
The failure to clearly break with capitalism has helped to worsen Nicaragua’s economic plight and, more importantly, has not stopped Reagan from seeking to crush the revolution. Reagan will keep on trying to secure a victory for reaction because the continued unfolding of the Nicaraguan revolution is encouraging revolutionary struggles throughout Central America. No matter what compromises the Sandinistas try to make with capitalism or the US government Reagan will maintain his policy unless there is a movement within the USA itself or the revolution successfully spreads to other Central American countries. In fact the FSLN’s policies of trying not to provoke Reagan are very dangerous because the best safeguard for the continuation of the revolution is the consolidation of a workers’ democracy within Nicaragua and an internationalist appeal to the workers and peasants in the Americas to follow this example.
However as Alan Woods pointed out in Winter 1983/4 MIR the Sandinistas’ policies are not accidental, they flow from the FSLN’s leaders’ acceptance of "the ideas of ’two-stages’ theory of the revolution… capitalism in Nicaragua, as in the whole of Central America, is absolutely rotten, corrupt and degenerate. There is no way forward on this (capitalist) basis for the Nicaraguan revolution. And yet the Sandinistas persist in a vain attempt to maintain some kind of private sector in the Nicaraguan economy. It is a mistake to imagine that capitalism has been eliminated in Nicaragua at the present time. Instead, we have an extremely peculiar state of affairs where, on the one hand the old Somoza state has been utterIy smashed – the state in the Marxist sense is armed bodies of men in defence of particular property relationships – and an entirely new state has been set up in Nicaragua controlled by the Sandinistas. And yet, according to the latest figures 60% of the land (and industry) remains in private hands. The economic power of the bourgeoisie therefore has not been decisively destroyed in Nicaragua. Therein lies the danger.
"This situation cannot exist for any length of time. Either the Sandinistas, leaning on the workers and peasants, will carrv through the process to the end and nationalise the economy, or else it is not excluded under certain conditions, that the bourgeoisie might gather fresh forces around itself and extinguish the new state."
The contradictory situation where the capitalists still control the economy but not the state will not last forever. It can only be resolved by either the state taking over the bulk of the economy through nationalisation or by the victory of the counter revolution allowing the bourgeoisie to create a new capitalist state. The tragedy is that the Sandinistas are giving the capitalists the opportunity to develop the counter-revolution, the economy and their attempts to reach political agreements with sections of the Nicaraguan bourgeoisie.
The utterly counter-revolutionary nature of the Nicaraguan capitalists is seen in the original refusal of their main political alliance, the CDN, to take part in the elections scheduled for November unless the Sandinistas agree to negotiate with the armed bands of `Contras’ attacking the country.
In mid August the CDN suddenly withdrew this demand. The Guardian reported that "Several Latin American and European governments had privately informed the CDN that their excuse for boycotting the elections was inadequate. Many were also irritated that the CDN had allowed itself to become so closely identified with the Contras." (16 August 1984.) In other words the counter-revolution’s foreign backers told the CDN to alter its approach in order to manufacture a better sounding excuse for intervention against the revolution.
The capitalists still hope that an election boycott by their parties will provide the public justification for an even greater level of US sponsored intervention against the revolution if Reagan is reelected. Clearly there is no possibility that the Nicaraguan bourgeois can be reconciled to the revolution, yet still the Sandinistas are not prepared to take firm action against groups like the CDN which clearly are the political wing of the `Contra’ thugs, possibly in the vain hope that this gesture will stop Reagan’s intervention.
This is the result of the FSLN leaders’ acceptance of the `two stage’ theory of the Stalinists that it is necessary to create the "democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry" (sometimes now mistakenly called a `workers’ and farmers’ government’) as a separate and distinct stage before a workers’ democracy is built on the basis of a planned nationalised economy.
This led to the FSLN attempting all the time to reach agreement with the so-called democratic’ capitalists, when in fact there is no such thing as a democratic bourgeoisie in Nicaragua. Leaving aside a tiny handful of unrepresentative capitalist politicians who think they can personally gain from working with the regime, the bulk of the capitalists are determined to crush the revolution.
But the `two stages’ theory has meant that the FSLN leaders have been reluctant to remove the capitalists’ main internal base through nationalisation. Indeed most of the main leaders of the `Contras’ are bourgeois leaders who were once included by the Sandinistas in their `revolutionary’ government. Arturo Cruz, the erstwhile CDN Presidential candidate who until recently was demanding talks with the Contras, was in fact appointed by the FSLN to the Junta ruling Nicaragua in May 1980 in the place of another capitalist leader who resigned from the Junta protesting against the Sandinistas’ policies. Today Cruz is repaying his former sponsors by giving Reagan an excuse to intervene because of the `undemocratic’ elections.
This theory of the Stalinists is meant to be based on what occurred during the Russian revolution, but in fact it is the complete opposite. There never was a period when Lenin and the Bolsheviks collaborated in government with capitalists’ leaders, yet perverting everything that Lenin had ever fought for the Stalinists always argue for co-operation with the socalled `democratic’ capitalists.
Shamefully these ideas are now being repeated by the former followers of Trotsky in the US Socialist Workers Party who have now capitulated to Stalinism. These renegades from Marxism have completely distorted the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky to create a completely new stage, which they call a "workers’ and farmers’ government", between capitalism and a workers’ democracy where the main sectors of the economy are not yet nationalised. Faced with the difficulty of reconciling this position with that of Marxism an SWP leader was forced to make a "clarification" in a footnote to a recent article admitting that "Marx, Engels, Lenin and others used workers’ democracy in a sense that also encompasses a state in which political power has been wrested from the exploiting classes and taken into the hands of the proletariat and its allies, but in which socialist property forms (i.e. a planned economy) do not yet predominate." (page 92 New International No. 3).
The US SWP is forced to admit. that "Lenin used many different terms in the years following the October victory to describe the revolutionary process the Bolshevik Party was leading: dictatorship of the proletariat, workers’ and peasants` government, socialist state, soviet republic, dictatorship of the proletariat and poor peasants, proletarian state etc" (page 64). This quite clearly shows that these renegades are attempting to give a completely new meaning to the demand for a workers’ and peasants’ government, one which implies the continued existence of a capitalist economy and ends up as a justification for the Sandinistas’ refusal to move decisively against. the bourgeoisie, a policy which puts the very future of the revolution in danger. As we have explained before only through the completion of the Nicaraguan revolution, i.e. the overthrow of capitalism, is there any chance to defeat the counter-revolution. Any delay or hesitation displayed towards crushing the capitalists will only give them further opportunity to organise reaction.
Clearly even the establishment of a workers’ democracy in Nicaragua will not immediately lead to socialism. A socialist society can only be built on the basis of overcoming all forms of scarcity through the raising of the productivity of labour to far higher levels than have ever been achieved under capitalism. For this to take place capitalism, and therefore imperialism, must be overthrown in at least in a number of the most advanced capitalist countries, or, alternatively Stalinism overthrown in the Soviet Union. But while small underdeveloped, countries like Nicaragua cannot complete the world socialist revolution they can begin it.
The victory of the socialist revolution in Nicaragua would not only help transform Central America but it would have a profound effect on the major Latin American countries like Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile etc. The establishment of a workers’ democracy in any of these major countries would change the entire world situation and herald the final defeat of capitalism and Stalinism. This is why it is so important that even in small countries like Nicaragua, with a population half the size of London, for the working class to be armed with Marxist policies. A victory for the programme of Marxism in a single country today would be the green light for the beginning of the world revolution which will transform all humanity.
Chronology of Nicaraguan history
Independence from Spain won by Central American Federation, of which Nicaragua was a part.
Break up of Central American Federation.
US troops invade Nicaragua to prevent President Zelaya building a rival to the Panama Canal with German and Japanese backing. Nicaragua in effect becomes a semi-colony of USA.
US troops again intervene to crush Liberal – led national uprising, after which a permanent force of US Marines are based in Nicaragua.
US Marines withdrawn from Nicaragua. Two months later civil war starts out after Conservatives break their coalition with the Liberals and seize power in coup. US troops immediately return.
Liberals agree to surrender on US terms, but one Liberal leader, General Sandino, refuses and continues to fight on with his 300 strong force based in the north.
With promise that US Marines will leave (which they did in 1933) Sandino agrees to stop fighting after receiving guarantees for some peasant co-operatives.
Sandino killed as he attends banquest in the Presidential Palace in a plot arranged by Somoza, then head of the’ Nicaraguan National Guard, and the US Ambassador.
Somoza seizes power and used his position to eventually become the richest person in Central America. Somoza was assassinated in 1956 and was succeeded by his eldest son, who in turn was replaced by his younger brother after his death in 1967. By 1979 the Somoza family had a fortune of $150 million inside Nicaragua plus millions more abroad.
New Sandinista guerrilla campaign under General Raudeles opens up in the north of the country.
Foundations of FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front) by Carlos Fonseca Amador, Silvio Mayorga and Tomas Borge. Fonseca was a former member of the PSN (the pro – Moscow communist party) who had met Che Guevara in Cuba after being wounded in 1959 with the Sandinista guerillas.
FSLN begins guerilla activity.
After heavy defeats the FSLN suspends all military activity.
Earthquake destroys the Nicaraguan capital Managua.
FSLN restarts military activity a few days after the formation of the Democratic Liberation Union (UDEL), a ’popular front’ of liberal capitalists and workers’ organisations.
FSLN majority expel the ’Proletarian Tendency’ led by Jaime Wheelock which opposes all military adventurism and argued for the FSLN to root itself first in the proletariat.
Further division within the FSLN between the majority Tercerista’ tendency and the ’protracted people’s war’ tendency GPP). The Tercerists, led by Daniel Ortega favoured commando-type actions, urban guerrilla activity similar to that of the Uruguayan Tupamaros, an orientation toward an earlier uprising and supported the idea of broad alliances with sections of the bourgeoisie. The GPP, led originally by Tomas Borge, wanted to maintain a strategy of rural guerrilla warfare.
Somoza lifts state of emergency after apparently crushing FSLN, but one month later Tercerista tendency of FSLN launches new attacks. In November UDEL publish appeal calling for the creation of a democratic alternative to Somoza regime which should include FSLN.
Assassination by Somoza of UDEL leader and "La Prensa’ movement against regime. 120,000 attend Chamorro’s funeral, employers and unions call general strike FSLN stage more attacks.
July, formation of FAO, a broad opposition front linking together forces ranging from the MDN, led by the millionaire industrialist Alfonso Robelo, to the FSLN Terceristas. The Terceristas carried on military attacks while the proletarian tendency’ and GPP wings carried on widespread political work. Uprisings and strikes develop throughout the country, although the September movement in Leon and Esteli is suppressed with the loss of 6,000 lives.
November Terceristas break from FAO in protest at US interference in talks between the FAD and Somoza.
February: Formation of National Patriotic Front (FPN) by the Sandinistas, trade unions, MPU la front of popular organisations) and some minor bourgeois groups.
March: Reunification of FSLN and resumption of its military offensive amid continuing mass movements. Steadily new fronts were opened up.
June: Spontaneous uprising in the capital, Managua. Formation of exile provisional government made up of 3 Sandinistas and their supporters and two capitalists.
July: Entry of Sandinistas into Managua marks the end of civil war which killed over 50,000 (2% of Nicaragua’s population). At this time the FSLN had no more than 500 members. On July 20 the provisional government became the Government Junta of National Reconstruction (JGRN) with a 3 to 2 Sandinista majority and the assets of the Somoza family nationalised. Today the two original capitalist members of the Junta support the ’Contras’.