Looking Back at the FSLN’s Election Loss

Posted February 25, 2010

Twenty years ago the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua was brought to an end with the election of Violeta Chamorro, whose campaign had been largely funded by Washington. Earlier, in July 1979, the insurrection launched by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) forced dictator Anastasio Somoza to flee the country. The FSLN then named a five-person National Directorate (including Violeta Chamorro and three members of the FSLN) to head the government and new possibilities opened up for the country’s workers and peasants.

Sandinista Literacy Campaign

The FSLN launched a highly effective literacy drive that revealed what a mobilized population might accomplish. A similar health campaign eradicated endemic illnesses and laid the basis for health clinics throughout the country. In the first years of the revolution, both the government and the FSLN had an image of pluralism and collectivity.

One of the most interesting democratic experiments carried out by the FSLN was its attempt to refashion elections. In the early ’80s it brought into the parliament leaders of popular movements, whether FSLN members or not. It developed a constitution and a pluralist electoral law, then organized hundreds of community meetings so these could be discussed and changes incorporated. The FSLN leaders developed the idea of a fourth branch of government, the Supreme Electoral Council, in order to insure transparent elections. And the FSLN government carried out transparent elections in both 1984 and 1990.

Washington’s Intervention, FSLN Mistakes

While Washington in 1979 had declined to save the Somoza regime, once Reagan came to office it funded a growing counterrevolutionary insurgency. This illegal intervention was effective because the FSLN made some serious mistakes — after all, it had been a small guerilla army suddenly thrust into power. The FSLN did not understand that the indigenous people of the Atlantic Coast, not having been directly oppressed by the Somoza regime, did not see themselves as liberated by the revolution. The history and interests of the indigenous coastal population were quite different than those in the rest of the country.

The FSLN’s second major error was in prioritizing collectivized land reform over an individual peasant family’s right to cultivate a plot. These two mistakes, and the government policies that flowed from them, provided Washington with an opening. That is, the contra war was not simply imposed on Nicaragua, but was built on local opposition to the FSLN government’s policies, then fueled by arms and training supplied by the Reagan government.

As a result of having to fight a civil war, the FSLN government was forced to requisition scarce supplies and conscript young men into the army. And it was a brutal war, in which many young people died or were severely injured. The FSLN demanded belt-tightening for the workers and peasants, but had a softer approach toward the national bourgeoisie who did not go over to the contras.

Given U.S. backing, the contra force could not be stamped out, and over the years the war bled the country’s resources and undercut the FSLN government’s base of support. In the first post-Somoza elections, held in 1984, the opposition politicians boycotted and the FSLN won at the polls. But with the second election in 1990, the opposition presented a united slate (UNO) led by Violeta Chamorro, widow to the most prominent anti-Somoza martyr. Of course not only did Washington fund the contra war, but also funded the opposition’s successful electoral bid.

Those of us who supported the revolutionary government, whatever our worries or criticisms, were crushed by this US-backed victory. But there remained the hope that the FSLN would be able to analyze their defeat and renovate themselves. The FSLN was a tiny organization composed of three tendencies that came together shortly before the 1979 insurrection. They had never had the opportunity to build a democratic organization with an accountable internal culture. In fact, both the FSLN government and the party developed a more commandist structure over the course of the civil war. Although a split occurred before the 1990 defeat, many militants and supporters agreed that with the loss of governmental power the FSLN could find the space to reflect and rebuild. Of course the FSLN projected a militant strategy of governing from below and still had many representatives in parliament.

Govern from Below?

But in the transition period proceeding Chamorro’s taking office, FSLN officials began transferring state property to the party. Known as the “piñata,” these actions included the taking of houses, land, farms, businesses and vehicles. At the time the explanation offered that this was the result of the FSLN’s failure throughout the 1980s to differentiate between state and party property. The party would hold the property “for the people.”

Many high-ranking FSLN officials were involved in this property transfer, including Daniel Ortega. At first supporters of the revolution were informed that the FSLN would take up any impropriety through an internal FSLN commission–but it has never done so! The failure of the party to examine that abuse of power occurred on a second occasion, when Ortega’s stepdaughter Zollamérica Narváez accused him of rape and sexual harassment over a 10-year period. Although she was a member of the FSLN, her charge was never considered.

The initial pluralism of both the government and the party was eroded in the 1980s, but it was not inevitable that the FSLN would become a top-down electoral machine. But because it was ultimately unable to examine and renovate itself, the more authoritarian elements led by Daniel Ortega captured the party, drove out those who desired dialogue and valued independent popular organization, and built a membership loyal to the party machine and willing to use membership for personal gain.

In the early years of the 1990s, however, it still seemed as if the FSLN was willing to back popular movements of students, women, teachers, peasants, health care workers, and other workers in their determination to oppose privatization and other neoliberal “reforms.” Tragically it has become increasingly obvious that the popular movements were no more than bargaining chips in the FSLN’s parliamentary fights.

In the 1996 close-fought election, Arnold Alemán won the presidency and his Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) deepened the neoliberal agenda and brought government institutions to new levels of corruption. Two years later the unthinkable happened: the FSLN entered into a pact with the PLC. The pact outlines how the PLC and the FSLN divvy up various governmental posts, including the Supreme Court.

One consequence of this still-existing pact was the passage of the 2000 electoral law, which effectively eliminated independent municipal candidates or alliances. The law also rewards the top two parties with financing and preferential seating. Capping the law is the provision that allows a presidential candidate to win with less than a majority vote if there is a 5% margin between the top candidate and the second-highest one. It was through that formula that Daniel Ortega became president in 2006 with 38% of the vote.

Another aspect of the FSLN win in 2006 was their willingness within the National Assembly to overturn a century-old law allowing for therapeutic abortion. This criminalization of abortion–putting Nicaragua into the category of having one of the five most repressive laws against abortion–was a pre-election payoff to the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

(While therapeutic abortions represent only a small number of the reasons women need abortion in Nicaragua, the draconian law creates a climate of fear among health care providers. With a high incidence of violence against girls and women, Nicaragua provides little sex education or access to birth control methods. As a result, the country has the highest rate of young mothers in all of Central America. As the result of rape, in 2008 at least 1,400 Nicaraguan girls under 14 became pregnant, according to the UN Population Fund. That same year the director of Managua’s Women’s Hospital reported four out of every 10 deliveries involved women under 15.)

Return to Power

Many people hoped that with the 2006 FSLN win, the country would move to the left and undo the neoliberal programs that have kept the country in poverty. It’s true that President Daniel Ortega continues to speak in a populist, anti-imperialist language. He has initiated social programs such as Zero Hunger and Zero Usury that reach the most impoverished sector of the population. Further, President Ortega has developed a strong alliance with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and other left-of-center governments in Latin America. For his part, Chávez has supported Ortega by supplying oil at a reduced cost. The FSLN government has also relaunched a campaign to reduce illiteracy and eliminated educational fees for primary and secondary education.

From the beginning of his presidency, Ortega set up the Councils of Citizens’ Participation (CPC) for “direct democracy” at the municipal level–but this ignored the already functioning and non-partisan Municipal Development Committees (CDM). It would seem that the reason to set up and direct finding through the CPCs is to build up a patronage system. In the municipalities where the FSLN is not in power the Zero Hunger program is administered by the CPCs. Since the Venezuelan aid ($250 million in 2008 alone) does not pass through the national budget, but is handled by a Venezuelan-Nicaraguan joint venture in that Ortega controls, aid operates as a source of corruption and patronage.

Additionally, for the 2008 elections the Supreme Electoral Council annulled participation of two parties that oppose the FSLN-PLC pact (the Sandinista Renovation Movement and the Conservative Party), and denied Eduardo Montealegre leadership of the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance, a party he founded. Throughout the pre-election process there was a constant confusion between the state’s resources and those of the party. In addition, the FSLN used the CPCs as shock troops to oppose marches by opposition parties. Once mobilized, these groups roamed highways and cities armed and ready to attack. In some cases high-ranking FSLN members such as Manuel Calderon, the FSLN mayoral candidate in Leon, were involved.

While no national observers were authorized to cover the election polls, the only international observers allowed were from Venezuela. Needless to say the FSLN “won” more than 100 mayoral seats, including the crown jewel of Managua.

Along with the authoritarianism of the FSLN government came an attempt to deny the autonomous women’s movement its legal status. A government minister hinted to the media that the women’s movement was involved in money laundering. Although they have since backed off from making such charges stick., it launched an alternative women’s movement, which will provide access to health care, work, credits, education and gender training through the government. Its spokesperson strongly criticized the independent women’s movement for opposing the criminalization of abortion.

Meanwhile the FSLN government has not boldly broken from the neoliberal model of previous governments and has even retreated from its plan to reverse the country’s regressive tax structure.

Those of us who want to understand how a partially formed but pluralistic FSLN was transformed into a corrupt and authoritarian party, consumed with remaining in power, need to champion the democratic thread that has been a part of the Sandinista tradition. With Washington’s hand on the scales, the balance was tipped against the flourishing of a revolutionary process. Nonetheless there is a Sandinista spirit still alive today in Nicaragua, in the women’s movement, in the struggle for human rights, and in the independent movements of workers, peasants and students.


8 responses to “Looking Back at the FSLN’s Election Loss”

  1. Elena Zeledon Avatar
    Elena Zeledon

    Companero Issac:

    Thank you for your informative reply to my questions.
    That gives to me a more clear picture of the position of your movement regarding those questions. While my questions to companera Dianne were perhaps posed in an overly provacative manner, it was done with the intention of making sure she understood her comments had an impact in a negative manner, beyond which she might have intended. Of course, I hope my questions did not imply that Solidarity was supporting American imperialism or the activities of the oligarchy, merely that Dianne’s language was echoing that of the right, and that other formulations might be more appropriate.

    In regards to the position of Solidarity regarding the creation of a Fifth Socialist International, it is good to hear that this matter is being discussed in the serious manner which it merits. I look forward to seeing this discussion on the website. For your information, two of the left organisations in Canada, Socialist Project and Socialist Action have already endorsed this initative by compa Chavez, and I am sure there will be other discussions held elsewhere.

    The creation of strengthening the links between the hemispheric left is a political as well as organisational question, not that the two can ever be seperated in the final analysis. The development of a network for the dissemination of information should be a top priority as part of a campaign to build a mass solidarity movement with the Latin American revolution. This of course has many aspects, but ultimately comes down to making the building of this movement a political priority for the forces of the revolutionary left. I have been a member and supporter of the IV International for 42 years, like many of the companeros and companeras of the Solidarity organisation. In all that time, and with the only exception being support for the Cuban revolution after its characterisation as a workers and farmers governement, has the North American left concentrated its attention on Latin America. This is a weakness which history now demands be overcome.
    Perhaps I am bending the branch to much against the wind, but leaving aside conjunctural events like the Unidad Popular in Chile, and the victory of the Sandanista government in Nicaragua, there has been no systematic organisational plan to link the struggles. Not that it is easy, I am not suggesting that it is.
    The companeros of the Cuban Communist Party have said that the North American left is not up to the task of defending the Latin American revolution. With them, I disagree, not based just on historical evidence, but based on what I believe is the capacity of the revolutionaries in the North to build movements when the politcal will and clarity of purpose are there.
    The organisational capacity of the revolutionaries of the North will be shown when they are provided with adequate finding for the projects. The techno-organisational infrastructure can be quickly built with the resourses available: streaming broadcasts of “Radio Revolucion”; mirror sites; online, real time publications; guerrilla print advertising; distributive technologies such as these, like the YouTubes and Facebooks, etc. can keep the information flow going to teach the North Americans the reality of the mass struggles, to overcome the proaganda initatives of the bourgeois media. These things the Fifth Socialist International can provide. As an example, look at the information flow provided by websites such as “Venezuelaanalysis” or “Correro de Orinocco” in English, and the “Apporea.org” and “Mare Socialista.org” sites, in telling the true story of the Venezuelan revolution.
    In other words, I am counting upon the fiscal resources to match the ingenuity to build a permanent, mass solidarity movement which will politically limit the capacity of North American imperialism to intervene against the Latin American revolution.
    You did it for Vietnam as part of your internationalist duty. You can do it again, this time on a much richer and more vibrant matrix of political possibilities.
    I think of the question of military spending versus spending for health care. Here in Costa Rica the armed people defeated and then disbanded the military in 1948. There has been no army, airforce or navy since that time. The people of Costa Rica, a small country with an export econmomy subject to the whims of the international market, have built a health care system which would be the envy of the United States with a public system financed by the tax money which ISN’T going to pay for military expenditures.
    With the weak kneed liberalism of the Obama administration caving into the health lobby, and with none of the health financing problems of the American people really solved, to counterpose health care spending to military spending, and to insert the question of imperialisms aims in Latin America into the Afghanistan debate,gives the left a golden opportunity to raise the question of abolishing funding for the military, and returning defense of the country back into the hands of an armed people, a la Cuba and now Venzeuala with the workers and peasants militias. If a little country like Costa Rica can do it, why can’t a big country like the USA. Doesn’t the government trust the citizens of the USA to defend themselves. (Or is this too much like the NRA?)
    Thank you again for responding to my questions, and forgive me if I am not brief. It is my sincere belief that the strong wind from the South will be the one which provides the oxygen for the liberation of the North. The destinies of Our Americas are one, we will struggle together to bring about the socialist transformation of our hemisphere, or we shall perish together in the fires of barbarism. There is not much time to decide. As both compa Castro and Bob Dylan have said: “The hour is getting late.”

    Elena Z

  2. Isaac Avatar

    Elena, thanks for your engagement with and discussion. While Solidarity is not a broad front like the Sandinistas, we are an organization with active debate and different strategic opinions, and members are open about this. On something as bold and complex as the call for a Fifth International, this is something that we are in the process of discussing. In preparation for that discussion, we’ve found that no socialist organization in the United States has taken a position! One can draw many conclusions from that, among them that connections between the Left in this hemisphere need to be strengthened. It’s likely that many of our contributions to this debate will be put on this website.

    (By the way, one element of Solidarity’s multi-tendency makeup is the fact that some of us are members of the Fourth International and others are not. The organization as a whole is not affiliated at this point.)

    As for the movements of immigrants from other parts of Americas, I agree with you on both points – the centrality of immigrants’ struggles in democratic and workers movements, as well as the links that often exist between politically active immigrants and the left in their home countries. I do think that it’s possible to overstate this connection given the internal dynamics that exist in the immigrant rights movement in the United States. For one, many who are quite militant on the immigration question have connections to parties like the PRI in Mexico. Others, particularly younger immigrants, often do feel a strong connection to the US (while of course wanting to be able to visit the rest of the Americas, through having citizenship.) Another factor is that it’s a community and family issue which often includes undocumented as well as documented migrants, and people whose family history in the US is a long time, including Chicanos who have always had connections on both sides of the border since it was moved in 1848.

    As far as Nicaraguan politics go, I am very interested in any recommended links you may have on developing struggles there (or in Costa Rica for that matter!). It’s obviously not the role of leftists in the US to say what choices revolutionaries in Nicaragua or anywhere else should do. I do think it’s possible and necessary to read about and learn from the choices that revolutionaries make – and this includes disagreement. However, this does not equal giving support to imperialist intervention! It’s highly unlikely that the imperialist war machine will use critical discussions amongst leftists to justify their violence and intervention! In case it needs clarification, Solidarity never has and never will support that kind of US intervention no matter what our view of the political situation there; this is a basic principle of self-determination.

  3. Elena Zeledon Avatar
    Elena Zeledon

    Companera Dianne:

    Thanks you for your reply. I will be brief, as you were, and focus on just one topic, the FSLN of today and your orientation to it.
    The FSLN and the government of Nicaragua is under attack by imperialism and its stooges in the oligarchy. Your government is helping to pay for the recomposition of the contras, especially in the north of the country. This is all in context of the coup in Honduras orchestrated by Hilary Clinton and her cronies in the state department, and the fundamentalist religious group,”the Family” to which she adheres, and which have been active in right-wing foreign policy initatives since the Reagan days.
    What is the attitude of Solidarity towards the FSLN as it presently exists? As you are aware, it is a front and contains therein different class elements, ranging for the most militant sectors of the organised workers movement through to those who availed themselves of the pinata, and would be classified as small capitalists of a nationalist bent.
    Would you defend this governemnt against the attacks of imperialism, or would you join the chorus of the right and sing the tune of imperialism: “Ortega is a dictator…the FSLN is going to take away our freedom..the Sanadanistas will steal our land…etc. ad naseum”.
    What would you do if you lived in Nicaragua? Would you join the front which enjoys the support of the politicised mass of the population, and fight for your political positions within it, or would you take another course? These are not complex questions, and require only a brief response.

    As to the other two questions, the attitude of Solidarity towards the call for a Fifth Socialist International, and the role of the immigrant worker in building mass struggles in the United States, I will leave for another, different posting.

    Elena Z
    Costa Rica

  4. Elena Zeledon Avatar
    Elena Zeledon

    Companera Dianne:

    Thanks you for your reply to my original posting. I would like to make the following in response, and hope that we can continue this discussion in light of the various proposals agreed to at the recent 16th Congress of the Fourth International with in which your political current is a part.

    1. I did not gloss over the failures of the FSLN leadership. I am in agreement with your criticisms and in particular the dicision to make abortion illegal. This deal with Miguel Obanado and the hierarchy of the Church can in no ways be defended. Why waste effort in talking about things we agree on.

    2. May I suggest that the language you used in your original article does not do justice to the complexity and vibrancy of the rising mass movement in Nicaragua, maybe for reasons of brevity or lack of current information. Nonetheless, the fact that the FSLN contains within its ranks the most active and militant sectors of the politicised population, including members and supporters of the Fourth International leaves one to inquire as to your stand regarding work with the FSLN. The question I would ask you on this point is whether you would be found in the ranks of this anti-imperialist front, helping the masses in their quest for a self-organised expression of their nationalist and anti-imperialist project? If not, what would be your alternative given the present situation n Nicaragua today?

    3. I raised two other points in my reply to your article. The first of these is the notion of the centrality of immigrant workers in building a mass anti-capitalist movement in the United States. How does your organisation see the dynamics of the link amongst the mass revolutionary organisations and the mass struggle against imperialism and capitalism in the Patria Grande, to use Bolivar’s term, and the fact of the masses of workers from the Indo-Latin-Carib states, many of whom identify much more with their homelands than with the place where they work.
    The second point you touched briefly upon in response to my questions regarding your organisations silence in respect to the call of Commandante Chavez for the creation of a Fifth Socialist Internacional: “This lesson can inform the experiments unfolding in Latin America today. I would hope it could be part of the discussion in the construction of the Fifth Internation.”
    I am puzzled at this phrase. It seems that what has occurred in the mass struggles, in the context of a socialism for the 21st century has gone completely unnoticed by you. The very ideological basis of the renewed stuggle for socialist transformation throughout Nuestra America is the inclusive, democratic and revolutionary nature of the socialism that we want. This seperates the revolutionaries from the reformist clinging to the institutionalisation of formalist categories of democracy, and this seperates the revolutionaries from the authoritarians clinging to a romanticised version of the days of “actualy existing socialism”, throughout the continental struggle. This discussion not only “informs” the discussion around the creation of a Fifth International, it is the framework which led to its call.
    Please allow me to provide one tiny example of how the struggle for socialism and the struggle for workers democracy is playing itself out.
    At the extrodinary, three month long founding congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the leadership had put forward a formula for the method of selecting candidates for the upcoming National Assembly elections. This formula would allow for the selection from among the three leading candidates, if none of the candidates received 50% or more, by the national leadership. This proposal was rejected by the more than 700 delegates at the congress, in favour a proposal to select the candidate which received the most votes, punto final. The discussion around this amendement was led by the delegates from Parroquia 23 enero in which the compas from Marea Socialista play a leading role. These are the same companeras y companeros who put forward the positive proposals at the recent world Congress of the Fourth International, and whose contributions on the centrality of the mass struggles throught the Americas, including Nicaragua, were indeed welcome. The attitude of Commandante Chavez to this important discussion and outcome was a resounding “Good! We have to have trust and faith in the people to make the correct decisions.”
    The question which you did not answer was this: what is the attitude of Solidarity towards the call for a construction of a Fifth Socialist Internacional?
    Perhaps I have missed something on your website about this, but I can not find anything there which acknowledges this most important, even if only on the level of propoganda, initative which puts the question of international organisation in front of the revolutionaries of the world. This in and of itself helps validate the conception of the need for an international organisation which has long been the cornerstone of the thinking of revolutionary Marxists. Would you please enlighten us as to your thinking on this matter.

    Together in the struggle, together with the people of Honduras! El la lucha, presente! Socialismo o muerte!

    Elena Z.
    San Jose

  5. Dianne Avatar

    Dear Elena,

    You raise two ideas that are far off the topic of my focused attempt to look at the 1990 Nicaraguan elections. Each is complex.

    * Immigrant workers have contributed disproportionally to the militancy of the U.S. working class for 150 years and will obviously continute to do so, particularly when those immigrants were already activists in their countries of origin. However the repression that immigrants face today is greater than it has ever been, and the defense of immigrants by the U.S. working class is uneven.

    * The discussion about the Fifth International is just beginning. It seems to me what is being proposed is more along the lines of an anti-imperialist front. This is promising but frankly we in the U.S. face a unique siutation in which the majority is opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet there is a reduced capacity to mobilize that majority. Partly that is due to the economic crisis in which people do not see either a social solution to their problems nor a political and social force with which to align and therefore find individual hiding places.

    The March 4th student/campus worker actions are one important exception to this!

  6. Dianne Avatar

    I will try to respond to the very different kinds of comments posted about the 20th anniversary of the FSLN government electoral loss.

    * Elena Zeledon glosses over the failures of the FSLN-led revolution and does not explain the Nicaraguan people’s 1990 vote, the “piƱata,” or even mention the role the FSLN leadership played in repealing the 100-year old law on theraputic abortions. For her it’s enough that the FSLN President Daniel Ortega of today thunders anti-imperialist rhetoric, stands with other left politicians and supports the founding of the Fifth International.

    * I believe R does understand that there is a difference between anti-imperialist positions left politicians take, alliances they make, and what democratic processes exist within the party and the state. No matter how many “progressive” and anti-imperialist measures are taken, if they are done without the involvement of the grassroots they can quickly erode. Authoritarian rule, whether from the right or the left, is repressive.

    I do not believe the critique I outlined is one shared by the CIA or the Obama administration. They may talk about “democracy,” but that’s certainly not important to them. Case in point: Honduras.

    Although a critical supporter of the FLSN, I contributed to their election campaign as late as 1996. For me the 1998 pact with the PLC and the failure of the FSLN to deal with charges of corruption and sexual misconduct indicated that no matter how many individual revolutionaries exist within the party, the FSLN as presently organized and led cannot renovate itself.

    The lesson I take from the Sandinista Revolution is that democracy is essential for the revolutionary process. I see the Sandinista flame lighting our revolutionary path.

    This lesson can inform the experiments unfolding in Latin America today. I would hope it could be part of the discussion in the construction of a Fifth International.

  7. Elena Zeledon Avatar
    Elena Zeledon

    Dear Companeros:

    I am writing to respond to Dianne’s piece regarding the evolution of the FSLN (Sandinistas) and what I regard as an ill-considered and quite frankly inaccurate viewpoint. The message that Dianne delivers can be found on the pages of the press of the reactionary oligarchy or CIA front operations such as the Nica Times supplament to the Tico Times, published here in Central America.

    The first point which must be made is that the FSLN is not a homogeneous or monolithic movement. It is made up of various social forces which range from the organised workers movement to the small business owner, the rural peasants in the campo struggling for land ownership as well as the wheeler dealer professional poliical type.
    Politically, the FSLN includes a range of opinion from revolutionary Marxists to social democrats and Christian humanists. In reality, the FSLN was conceived as, and still is a front for the national liberation of Nicaraugua, and its policies and internal tensions reflect that fact.

    The second point I would address is the current political situation in Nicaragua and the attempts by your government to destabilise the FSLN government. The Front currently has a President elected, Daniel Ortega, but has a minority within the National Assembly. In addition, it faces a reactionary oligarchy which with the help of your Embassy in Managua is financing the recomposition of the contras, those neo-facists of Oliver North fame.

    The Sandanista government has, from the day of its second inauguration, made it clear that it has cast its lot with those countries of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, and not with the imperialist monster to the North. Daniel Ortega has been quite clear about the need to develop a continental anti-imperialist front, and indeed the FSLN has endorsed the call, along with every other major revolutionary movement, for the creation of a Fifth International issued by Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela and president of the largest mass revolutionary party in the western hemisphere, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.

    That the progress of the Nicarauguan revolution has not proceeded with the speed which we all hoped for has as much to do with the failure of the left in the United States of America to build a mass movement in support of the Latin American revolution, as it has to do with the shortcomings of the Sandinista leadership. Part of that failure is reflected in the ignorance about the mass revolutionary struggles taking place in Latin America, its particular forms, its rythms and its dynamics.

    Let me use one example of how this ignorance (by this I mean lack of knowledge, not lack of manners)plays out in Dianne’s article. She refers to the creation of the CPC’s as transmission belts for political patronage and for political mobilisation against the opposition. The real story is that the CPC’s have been created to act as a popular organising center where the municipal residents can themselves determine the spending priorities of the local community, and not have to depend upon the whims of the corrupt bureacratic elite, dominated by the political opposition which would siphon off the funds into their own pockets, as they have done since the days of the Chamorroists.
    While Dianne paints a picture of the Sanadinsts as a an authoritarian and corrupt movement, using the same language and imagery as that of the right, the reality of Sandinismo is much more complex and vibrant. The second stage of the Sandinista revolution is unfolding in Nicaragua, led by the best elemnts of Sandanismo. Dianne and Solidarity would be well advised to look beyond the CNN cartoon analysis.
    In fact, the unfolding dynamics of the Bolivian, Venezuelan, Ecuadorian, Nicaraguan, El Salvadorean and Cuban revolutions are now being played out with an intensity and cross fertilization which issue a clarion call to the left in the United States. You can join in the struggle, with all its warts and imperfections, or you can remain on the sidelines and do nothing but give lip service to hemispheric internationalism.
    You can begin to think about how the dynamics of the Latin American revolution, the revolution in Nuestra America impacts on the millions of Latino workers in the United States and how you can best use your political efforts to help them organise themselves, to see themselves as part of a pan-continental movement for liberation and socialist transformation.
    Your imperialists have brought the wretched of the earth into your country to empty your garbage, look after your children, pick your fruits and vegatables,shine your SUVs and do a million and one other un-noticed and unackowledged things, to suffer at the hands of a systemic racist attack designed to crush any feelings of self-worth, dignity and pride. The Nicaraugans, Salvadoreans, Haitians,Mexicans, Costa Ricans, Hondurans and Puerto Ricans are all there by the millions.They can and will be imperialism’s prtoagonists. They and the African American community represent the vast majority of the poorest and most exploited sectors of the working class in the USA. For cultural and nationalist reasons, these are the workers who form the sections of the working class most vulnerable and most likely to move into action.
    I noticed that there is an article about immigrant organising in Cincinnati with a good account of how a broad cross section of faith and unions groups where there to help. I don’t notice if any revolutionary socialists where there? If so, perhaps you might consider the category of immigrant workers organising, since most immigrants have come to work. And if so, congratultions. If not, why not?
    It is the same question that Hugo Chavez, leader of the first workers and peasants government, in the classical sense of the term, since the Cuban revolution asked at the conference of more than 55 organisations which issued the call for the founding of the Fifth Socialist International. Where are the revolutionary organisations from the United States? asked Companero Chavez. Not one was there. He understands the interdynamics of the Latin American revolution not only with the countries of the South, but also between the South and the imperialist fortresses of the North.
    I would hope that the companeros of Solidarity consider the meaning of the call for revolutionary unity in struggle as part of the hemispheric defense of the peoples against imperialism and its compradors. I hope that you can answer Companero Chavez at the inaugural conference of the Fifth Socialist International in April, in Caracas with a clear and uniquivocal: Presente!
    For a more rounded analysis of the Nicaraguan revolution, may I suggest you visit the website run by Canadian Marxist and member of the FSLN Felipe Stuart C. at “Ay Nicaragua, Nicarauguita!
    For a broad selection of opinion and original source documentation, including a lengthy analysis by Companero Carlos Fonseca T., International relations secretary of the FSLN, on the call for the creation of the Fifth Socialist International, may I suggest the companeros avail themselves of the resources found at “Links: International Journal of Socialist Renewal”: http://www.links.org.au

    En la lucha, presente! Socialismo o muerte!

  8. R Avatar

    Thanks for writing this Dianne! I’ve read a few accounts of the ouster of Somoza and of the contra war, but really didn’t know much about the internal politics of the FSLN. These are indeed very useful lessons about democratic process and popular rule.

    What do you think was the main lesson for socialists internationally? This seems relevant to me in terms of navigating our relationship with pink/red movements with some degree of state power in Latin America today. Of course we defend these movements from imperialism no matter the tendency or hue, but how do we more precisely “champion the democratic threads” that exist alongside more authoritarian ones in other nations? (Besides simply learning lessons and emulating where we can…)

    Again, thanks!