Nicaragua: what it was, what it could have been, what it is

What was it like, what happened, why? These questions arise in every meeting, in every gathering, in every chat with colleagues, students or neighbors, where we raise our activities of dissemination and support what we are carrying out in support of the International Commission that will travel to Central America next month. All questions about ir are logical: from a powerful revolution that shook the continent and had worldwide repercussions, to this present de facto state of siege. In addition, forced exile and imprisonment with torture of political prisoners, among them former leaders and cadres of the FSLN and student activists of the new vanguard that emerged in April 2018 confronting Ortega-Murillo authoritarianism and the measures applied at the behest of the IMF. We are going to try, at least in part, to answer these doubts.

By Mariano Rosa, Member of the International Commission

By the end of the 1970s, the Nicaraguan people were suffering from a dictatorship that had been in power for more than 40 years: the Somoza family clan, which had been in power since 1936 under the fearsome National Guard. Anastasio’s father had to his credit the pro-Yankee merit of having secured the assassination of Augusto Sandino, Nicaragua’s anti-imperialist hero. The Somozas, however, were going through strong contradictions and a growing isolation from above and popular pressure from below at that time. The framework was as follows:

  • On an international scale the “Vietnam” syndrome limited the direct military interventions of U.S. imperialism: the beating received in Southeast Asia conditioned armed interference. The Democratic administration with Carter, proposed the line of gradual “transitions” to tutored bourgeois democracies. Somoza, an ally, resisted sharing power.
  • The earthquake that destroyed Managua in 1972 and the juicy business of reconstruction were monopolized by Somocismo: Theresa were inter-bourgeois tensions with sectors that are moving to the opposition.
  • The action of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, in spite of its foquist orientation dissociated from the workers and urban nuclei, it also managed to become the most consistent political reference against the dictatorship, since the bourgeois opposition panicked about mobilization and limited itself to the articles of denunciation by Pedro Chamorro from the pages of the newspaper La Prensa.

This general picture ends up leaning in favor of the revolution after the assassination of the aforementioned Chamorro, which unleashes as a final trigger a popular semi-insurrection throughout the country, which ends up leading the FSLN to the overthrow of Somoza on July 19, 1979.

The revolution of failed hope

The fall of the Somoza dictatorship took place in the midst of an enormous, violent, unstoppable, mass popular rebellion. The sinister National Guard, of assassinations and tortures, fled in disbandment. While the FSLN columns advance liberating cities, massively popular sectors join their ranks. It is a celebration of the masses taking historical revenge and settling accounts with Somocismo. Popular militias are formed, there are embryos of self-organization, and the execution of the former regime. The occupations of factories and haciendas of Somocismo multiplied. There is dual power, in fact in the countryside and in the city. This initial phase of the process has strong points of contact with the Russian experience of February 1917: the bases of capitalism crumble and the masses have objectively all the power within their reach. However, the FSLN already has a programmatic commitment assumed with the bourgeoisie “opposing” the regime: to form a government of national unity of Sandinism with the anti-Somocista bourgeoisie. This agreement is embodied in the so-called Junta of National Reconstruction, which from the outset limits the possibility of a total expropriation of the bourgeoisie and the integral agrarian reform. The Sandinista line, always behind the masses, was to accept the expropriation and occupation of the farms and factories of the Somocista owners. To the “democratic” capitalists, private property is respected. This orientation blocks the anti-capitalist radicalization that has been taking the revolution from the base since the fall of the dictatorship. The aspirations of the poor peasantry for a total agrarian reform and of the most combative sectors of the Nicaraguan working class (construction, leather, teachers) begin to be limited from the genesis. The unfolding of the revolution surprises the FSLN leadership and its independent course. The “crime” committed? Founding more than 70 independent unions and proposing a workers’ and peasants’ government, without capitalists: neither “anti-patriots” nor “patriots”. None. That line clashed head-on with the conception of class collaboration of Sandinismo from minute zero.

Operation “freezer”: Stalinist interference and claudication

The whole of Central America was activated by the Nicaraguan process. In fact, neighboring El Salvador also experienced a profound process against the dictatorship of that country. The resonances had an impact on the whole region and even more so were a powerful stimulus in the Southern Cone, which had been plagued by genocidal dictatorships. For this reason, faced with the terror of suffering a new “Cuba”, US imperialism acted quickly:

  • First, advising the anti-Somocista bourgeoisie that joined the government with the FSLN and achieved a first objective: to avoid slowing down the anti-capitalist and expropriating dynamics of the revolution.
  • Later, with the abandonment of this bourgeois sector of the government, replaced by former Somocista legislators (to give signs of trustworthiness, said the FSLN), imperialism changes and passes to a counter-revolutionary stage on the military level: it finances the mercenary contingents of “the counters” who lead sabotage operations. Fires, bombs in refineries and ports and attacks to generate panic and confusion. However, at a very high cost in human lives, and in spite of the hesitations of the Sandinista leadership, the force of the armed masses defeats the counter-revolution.

However, instead of going on the offensive, expropriating and imposing workers’ control, Ortega at the head of the FSLN follows the advice of Fidel Castro and initiates the process of signing pacts and compromises that abort the possibility of radicalizing and regionalizing the revolution. Thus, they agreed to pay the foreign debt, not to retaliate against the mercenary counters, to return farms and factories, and most importantly, not to collaborate with the Salvadoran guerrilla of Farabundo Marti and not to intervene in regional conflicts. The consummation of the catastrophe is to accept the call for elections within the framework of the tutelary bourgeois democracy, and thus, the social and economic consequences of the isolation of the revolution cause the deterioration of the relationship of the FSLN with the masses and a bourgeois opposition electoral mega-front, with Violeta Chamorro at the head, recovers for the bourgeoisie all the political power in the country. It is 1990 and 17 years of furious neoliberalism begin in the country of the people who were on the verge of taking the sky with their own hands. In any case, this history only confirms the main thesis of Leon Trotsky’s Theory of the Permanent Revolution: a revolutionary process that does not advance towards becoming more anti-capitalist and socialist inside the country, and international and world-wide outside, stagnates, regresses and transforms itself into its opposite. Learn, so as not to repeat. That is the political moral.

With the Nicaraguan people: before, now and always

Since its return to government in 2007 in the framework of the continental “progressive” wave, the FSLN with Ortega executed a policy of capitalist administration, representing the new Sandinista bourgeoisie and making pacts with the displaced capitalist factions. In the years of opposition, the FSLN cohabited with the right-wing pro-Yankee governments, and even his brother Humberto remained at the head of the army all that time. The most Bonapartist traits, in addition to the clientelist policy towards the masses, were consolidated. Chavismo’s petrodollars collaborated for a decade, but that situation began to change radically and the economic crisis as it worsened strained relations with the leaderships of big local capital and the church. In April 2018, a popular rebellion led by the student youth confronted the repression of the regime and its fundomoneta-rist measures to cut pensioners’ rights. The brutal violence unleashed by Ortega-Murillo further radicalized this new youth activism, children and grandchildren of Sandinista militants, and at the same time, consolidated the estrangement of emblematic leaders of the FSLN in a process that now converges in common resistance. The drifts of the sinister policy of the governing couple with assassinations, exile, massive exiles, imprisonment for protest, torture, espionage, farcical trials, and all the typical device of the worst Stalinism, only reaffirms that we are facing a bourgeois dictatorship for its class content and Stalinist for the methods of its political regime. On our part, as a historical current, we have always been with the just causes of the Nicaraguan people: from the Simon Bolivar Brigade in 1979, to the campaigns against the blockade and the imperialist siege. Always independent of the Sandinista leadership, always critical of its course of burying the revolution. Today, the impulse of the International Commission of left legislators and human rights referents ratifies that lifelong commitment, and collaborates in the unity of action for a very positive internationalist confluence. Because we carry the Nicaraguan people and their heroic struggles in our consciences and hearts. Because no dictatorship is forever. Because your struggle Nicaragua, is our struggle. Here we go.