41 Years from the Revolution. Is the FSLN Socialist?

By Alternativa Anticapitalista – Nicaragua

41 years have gone by since the victory of the Revolution in Nicaragua on the 19 of July, 1979. The revolution proved that the strength of the people of Nicaragua holds such power that can overthrow a terrorist dictator, but that the struggle must keep on to change the base of the regime and its institutions.[1]

The People´s Revolucion of 79 *

There were huge and massive expectations for the revolution. Nicaragua had the advantage. Massive worker, farmer and young ranks overthrew the Somocist dynasty and through their heroic fight, they defended the dream of a free for all Nicaragua. Paradoxically, the one liable for the treason against that victory was the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which through its anti-democratic practices set back the people’s victories in order to preserve the capitalist system in that region. That is the same front which governed the country during the 80’s and then came back on 2006 as a dictatorship.That political leadership betrayed the revolution and the interests of society as a whole. They betrayed us.¿

This is the first of a three articles series during this historical date for Nicaragua and the world. We are going to share several reasons why we question the fake socialism of the FSLN.

The Course of a Mutation

One day after the triumph of the revolution, a governing board was established, it worked as the executive and administrative power branch, and was integrated by Daniel Ortega, Sergio Ramírez and Moisés Hassan; Violeta Barrios de Chamorro y Alfonso Robelo, pro-american and businessman.

This governing board shared functions with a Council of State with more than 30 members. The council was integrated by 6 members of the FSLN, 6 members of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), representatives of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN), and all kinds of political parties and unions. Even the church had a bench!  [1][2]. It was an “anti-somocist” coalition between the FSLN leadership, private companies, traditional parties and the Catholic Church. Not a workers’ government! [2]

As socialist we state that power must be of the people and society as a whole, and in order to advance towards the socialist revolution, weapons should be on the hands of the people under the democratic control of their organizations.

Daniel Ortega said on the 31th of July in Barricada “That is why FSLN, which took over of the country on the first days, is now in the process of handing the Board the whole administrative and governmental apparatus. Therefore the Board has quickly advanced, while the FSLN goes forward into creating and consolidating a new army”[3].

According to this, “the whole judicial system was abrogated, and the substitution of the GN (Somocist National Guard) for a new Patriotic National Army was laid out” [4]. The creation of a regular bourgeois army was arranged, an army that defends the class interests of its leadership and the State, and in order to reach that objective, they dismantled the people’s’ militias, specially those of combative, critic and independent workers unions. That is to say,they dismantled the people and in that way, attacked the revolution once again.

To be socialist, a government must be led by the organized working class, a government must be created from the base organizations with the largest democratic participation upon the planification and decision making on political, economic and social grounds. That is a government that differs from the bourgeois one. It is a transitional worker’s government.** 

The bourgeoisie hoarded economy’s engines [3]

Regarding the economy, as socialists we argue that economy must be democratically planned with the participation of workers, farmers and the people, for them to control the main engines of economy and to produce under the terms of the real needs of the population.

FSLN did the exact opposite. From the beginning, they settled agreements with the national and international bourgeoisie and called that “mixed economy”. Their approach is productivist. That is why “it does not mean that the model which involves property owned by landlords is over, for example, Ingenio San Antonio, the largest in the country. This is this way because of the masses, not Sandinism, the forefront of the farming revolution. Sandinism just stubbornly marchs behind the farmers’ mobilization.”[5] Transnational capital did not go unmentioned “We want to tell American investors that our country has not closed its doors…” said Daniel Ortega (Barricada, Agost 7, 1979). That is how the agrarian reform (to retrieve the land to those who work, live, and historically protect it) did not take place.

Maza and Cuello observed the following “This situation has left 60% of the GNP to the bourgeoisie, which represents 81% of the agrarian production, 75% of manufacture, 30% of infrastructure and 80% of the internal wholesale market”[6]. In other words, the poor are poorer and the rich -and new rich-, richer. That is how the revolution process had little no revolutionary changes.

On top of that, damages extended towards Mosquitia and Costa Caribe Nicaragüense. The Nicaraguan Literacy Campaign -safeguarding the priceless revolutionary efforts of the youth who participated and their victories- which were taken advantage of by the government to set the path for their extractivist policies, annihilating their languages and knowledge (by imposing Spanish) and forcing their displacement. The advance of the agrarian border, the voracious and predating activity did not stop then, and doesn’t stop now. [4]

Revolution will be internationalist or not happen at all

The 1970’s and 1980’s were decades of revolutionary advances in Central America. The defeat of Somocism at the hands of the Nicaraguan population brought hope of change to the region and the world; however, the FSLN leadership and the Cuban Communist Party had other plans.  On July 26, 1979, Fidel Castro exclaimed that “the statements or fears expressed by some people, if Nicaragua was going to become a new Cuba, have been greatly answered by Nicaraguans: no, Nicaragua is going to become a new Nicaragua! which is a very different thing”[7]. This marked the international Sandinista policy towards the fighting Central American peoples. The FSLN never set out fully to support those fighting against their own dictatorships in the region; on the contrary, it turned its back on them.

The #CasoJesuita is a trial on crimes against humanity[8]. A military operation by the Atlacatl battalion against the Central American University of El Salvador, on November 16, 1989, left a tragic toll of 8 deaths, “the martyrs of the UCA”. Witnesses link the then-President Alfredo Cristiani, who took office when the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) was on the offensive, and a popular uprising was predicted. At that time, Daniel Ortega signed several treaties to support the disarmament of Central American combatants. He turned his back on the revolutionaries in El Salvador. Months before the terrorist attack against the Jesuits, on August 8, Ortega signed the Tola Agreement and ratified “the encouragement of the armed groups in the region, especially the FMLN, which still persist in the use of force, to desist from such actions[9]. And almost a month after the crime in Cristiani’s administration, on December 12, Ortega would sign in Costa Rica “his strongest condemnation of the armed and terrorist actions carried out by the irregular forces in the region” and, to make it clear, also his “determined support for the President of El Salvador, Don Alfredo Cristiani and his government.[10]

The FSLN, the JGRN and the Government of National Reconstruction strictly followed the exhortation of Castro and imperialism [11]: Stop the Central American revolution. Neither El Salvador nor any other Central American country would become a new Nicaragua. The leaders of the FSLN in Nicaragua contributed to stopping the revolutionary uprising in the whole region; they made pacts with the big national, regional and international capitals, and with their governments of the moment. They did not advance with the tasks of socialism: neither did they expropriate the bourgeoisie, nor did they promote democratic planning of the economy, nor did they extend the revolution in Central America.

Socialists recognize that capitalism and its institutions are an international system with global reach, and therefore revolution must be responded to and revolution must be organized at that same level. Stalinism, on the other hand, held that it was possible to build socialism in one country, which was a big mistake, since it was demonstrated with ample experience that what does not advance goes backwards.

Militant Internationalism: The Simon Bolivar Brigade [5]

People needed. At 4-49 17th Street, office no.201, Bogotá, they are in need of people. They don’t give jobs or promise to enrich applicants overnight through the sale of encyclopedias. The only thing they offer is the possibility of losing their lives, submitting themselves to risks and discomforts and leading a life full of dangers for an uncertain time. In return they only offer the opportunity to fight for the liberation of a people. This is where the office for the recruitment of Colombian combatants who wish to voluntarily enlist in the armed struggle against Anastasio Somoza’s dictatorship in Nicaragua operates”[12] as published y Daniel Samper Pizano in May 1979 in his column in the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.

Prior to that, the Trotskyist current led by Nahuel Moreno called for the formation of the Simon Bolivar Brigade (BSB) in Colombia, similar to the internationalist brigades that emerged during the Spanish civil war, which operated independently from the warring parties.

Thousands signed up on the spreadsheets in office 201, thousands more were organized around the world. The financial campaigns to provide for the brigade were of all kinds, from Sandinista bond sales to solidarity concerts. Ten by ten they arrived in Nicaragua. They fought in the Southern Front and Bluefields, and installed a first government there once the city was liberated. Relocated to Managua by the Junta, they took on the task of organizing combative unions with their independent militias and critics of the FSLN. They formed more than 100 unions, which would later form the Sandinista Workers’ Central (CST).

“The first workers’ demonstration in Nicaragua was held by the unions formed by the BSB on August 14. According to Time magazine, 3,000 factory workers participated, demanding payment of their lost wages and a halt to layoffs. In addition, delegations from the CDS and the militias participated in this mobilization to hand over thousands of signatures to the GRN and the FSLN asking for Nicaraguan nationality for the foreigners of the BSB. In this way, they asked for a reversal of the policy of throwing the internationalists of the Brigade out of the country or suspending their activities (sic.)”[13]. Because of its critical position and its policy of programmatic independence, “the Simon Bolivar Brigade, which also proposed extending the struggle to El Salvador, was expelled from the country (to Panama, in collaboration with the dictator Torrijos) and the Trotskyist militants were persecuted”[14].

The BSB proposed a route: the independent popular organization of bureaucrats and businessmen to promote a socialist program for Nicaragua and Central America. The FSLN command did not accept that the brigades had political and organizational independence, intervened in the unions, bureaucratized them through the CST and expelled the BSB from Nicaragua to the cruel Panamanian dictatorship that tortured them. This experience of the BSB showed the anti-democratic and class-conciliation policy and that the FSLN leadership is a bureaucracy.

While he people in rebellion give everything they’ve got, the treacherous leadership fails them. [6]

We have known for 41 that we can overthrow dictators and that the revolution of ’79 forged with the organization and struggle of thousands of children and young people and the Nicaraguan people could have been otherwise, but that after the triumph the previous regime was maintained and did not advance in the whole revolutionary course, “democracy” arrived, even if it was bourgeois. Today, with this milestone in the class struggle in Nicaragua having been so deformed, it is understandable the disenchantment that the degeneration of this “new Nicaragua” caused at the hands of a bureaucratic, anti-democratic leadership that reconstructed the bourgeois state to maintain capitalism and sustain the “old” one.

The FSLN left the task of redefining everything and creating a truly revolutionary State for the majority half way through, and in that sense the generations born after the 80’s grew up with traumas, family losses, silences and social mourning that we have not managed to overcome together, because there are not even memory policies to collectively heal these historical episodes that somehow repeat themselves today. Our families feel betrayed and disenchanted, but they never abandoned their sense of social justice and dignity for all, so it is important not to abandon this perspective and to resignify the tasks that were left pending.

The main conclusion is that a revolutionary leadership was missing then and is missing and necessary in our country now, a country which wants to break with the de facto powers, the Creole and transnational entrepreneurship, and empower society as a whole to be the architects of our own destiny. A leadership that fights for a government of those we have never governed: the working class, the youth, the women, the native peoples and those of African descent, is not a utopia but an urgent necessity.

From here we want to promote these processes of reflection and collective political discussion, and the urgency of building an anti-capitalist, feminist, eco-socialist and internationalist political alternative to turn everything around in Nicaragua and Central America. That is our strategy and we invite you to be part of it.

*This article is the first in a series of three in which we will analyze the role of the Sandinista leadership in three periods, characterizing each one to problematize its false “socialism”. Our next article will address its role as an opposition party in the 1990s.

**The Workers’ and Transitional State is, in any case, a partial conquest of the AC and world revolution. Specifically, it is the consolidation of a political class (worker, farmer and indigenous) in the construction of a superstructure for permanent mobilization that extends and deepens the revolution on a regional scale. Our objective is not a national workers state, but the creation of conditions for new forms of social relations, without class exploitation and to transit to the abolition of the state.



[3] Nicaragua: ¿reforma o revolución? Recopilación de artículos y documentos; Tomo I; Carlos Vig; Bogotá; 1980; p. 38.

[4] https://www.ejercito.mil.ni/contenido/ejercito/historia/historia-fundacion-eps.html

[5] El Sandinismo y la Revolución Nicaragüense, Nahuel Moreno; Buenos Aires; 2018; p. 6.

[6] Cuello, H. F. y Maza, J., Nicaragua: la revolución congelada, Bogotá, 1982; p. 14.

[7] http://www.cuba.cu/gobierno/discursos/1979/esp/f260779e.html


[9] Resoluciones de los presidentes centroamericanos Acuerdos de Tela, Quinta cumbre de presidentes centroamericanos, Puerto Tela, Honduras, 7 de Agosto de 1989.

Puerto Tela, Honduras, 7 de Agosto de 1989.

[10] Declaración de San Isidro de Coronado; Sexta cumbre de presidentes centroamericanos; San Isidro Coronado, Costa Rica 12 de Diciembre de 1989.

[11] https://www.cidh.oas.org/countryrep/Nicaragua81sp/introduccion.htm

[12]Cita a Daniel Samper Pizano, El Tiempo, Colombia, mayo de 1979, en https://contrahegemoniaweb.com.ar/2019/08/01/nora-ciapponi-en-la-brigada-simon-bolivar-parte-i/

[13] Nicaragua: ¿reforma o revolución? Recopilación de artículos y documentos; Tomo II; Carlos Vig; Bogotá; 1980; p. 528.

[14]  Cuello, H. F. y Maza, J., Nicaragua: la revolución congelada, Bogotá, 1982;p. 16.