“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx
Jul 30, 1986
I. The last year was marked by an increase in open attacks by U.S. imperialism against the Sandinista regime and the people of Nicaragua. It meant 5,000 more wounded, kidnaped and killed, hundreds of thousands of homeless, hundreds of schools and health facilities destroyed or rendered unusable.
At the same time, the population was forced to live in a constant state of war: military attacks by the Contras; the potential of a beefed-up military force in Honduras and Costa Rica; and continuous military exercises by U.S. troops right on its borders, accompanied by a series of threats of a U.S. invasion.
If the main overt attacks were aimed at Nicaragua, nonetheless, the U.S. continued its support of the Duarte regime in El Salvador, with its war against its own population. A major campaign of bombing with napalm and phosphorus was continued, which killed and wounded thousands of people. There are now 400,000 homeless and the standard of living has been reduced to 1962 levels.
Finally imperialism continued to back the government of Guatemala, which remains a bloody dictatorship, under the guise of a new civilian government. There were 578 murders by government police and military officials in only six months. The death squads are appearing more openly, and the rural population continues to be forced off the land and into model villages patterned after the strategic hamlets of the Viet Nam war.
II. U.S. imperialism has made it perfectly clear by its declarations and by its actions over the last year, that it is unwilling to accept the existence of an independent Nicaragua, led by the Sandinistas. The example of the Nicaraguan revolution, its popularity, its ability to survive, proves it is possible to depose a regime tied to U.S. imperialism, right in its own backyard. This is unacceptable to the U.S. ruling class today.
This reinforces the will of U.S. imperialism not to allow the insurgents fighting in El Salvador to win. A success there by the FMLN could confirm for the people of Latin America that Nicaragua was not an exception, and could thus encourage the hope for new revolutions that could overthrow other U.S.-backed dictators in an area of the world that U.S. imperialism continues to view as its own private empire.
It is with this in mind, that the U.S. government seems to be determined, if possible, to overthrow the Sandinista regime, while preventing a victorious insurgency and the taking of power by the FMLN in El Salvador.
III. The fact that the U.S. has taken a hardline stance in relation to the Sandinistas, and the FMLN; and that in response to this, the Sandinistas and the FMLN themselves have taken an anti-U.S. stance, does not mean as a consequence that either the Sandinistas and the FMLN represent the interests of the proletariat internationally, or that they are representatives of a proletarian power in their own countries.
The Sandinistas, from the beginning of their revolution, have made it clear what their goals are; by their own declarations and actions over the last year, they have continued to affirm the same goals. Despite occasional claims to be socialist or communist, the Sandinistas represent a nationalist, that is a bourgeois political current.
IV. Far from aiming at suppressing bourgeois property, the FSLN government has nationalized the assets only of enemies of the regime or of sectors indispensable for a minimal functioning of the economy. This is not just a temporary and tactical policy which could be imposed by the current situation of the country. Again and again, over the last period, the Sandinistas have repeated that their goal is not the expropriation of the national bourgeoisie.
In discussing their specific economic goals and problems, Sandinista Vice President Sergio Ramirez, in May 1985, reaffirmed the goal of developing a new economy based on “the many-sided cooperation of Nicaraguans...” which “we continue to conceive of as a mixed economy.”
In a speech last fall, giving the FSLN guidelines for a new constitution, President Ortega stated: “The Sandinista Front advocates nonalignment, political pluralism, and a mixed economy as constitutional principles...”
V. The power of the Sandinistas – without doubt democratic in the sense they had the support of the vast majority of the poor and the exploited layers of the Nicaraguan population – didn’t mean the building up of the power of the workers and the peasants. In seven years, there has been no attempt at all to create popular organs of power that would allow the workers and the poor to decide their own fate themselves, to run their own affairs directly, that is to establish their own political power. Instead they are to trust their fate to their “vanguard,” that is to the FSLN.
The FSLN proposal for the new constitution states: “The Sandinista Front advocates the constitutional principle of a unified, democratic state with electoral mechanisms to ensure the participation of all national sectors; a state in which the political will, legislation, and adequate mechanisms exist to guarantee the individual, civil, political, economic, and cultural rights of all Nicaraguans.”
In terms of the participation of the masses of the population in the Sandinista regime, in May of 1985, in a message to Nicaraguan workers, the FSLN stated, “The workers through their vanguard, the Sandinista Liberation Front, and through their trade union organization, made their voices heard and put forward their special interests in the council of the state, the Agrarian Reform council, and the consultative councils in the ministries, and in many factories in order to take part in giving form to the new revolutionary state.”
If the Sandinistas need to consult the working class it is clear it is consulted as only one section of the population. Right now, due to the difficult circumstances of the country besieged by the U.S. and its allies, as well as to the will of the Sandinistas themselves, the power is in the hands of only the FSLN, without the working class having a say. At most the ideal of the Sandinistas would be a mere bourgeois parliamentary democracy.
VI. Finally, the Sandinistas don’t consider themselves as the representatives of the working class or a part of the exploited of the world engaged in an international struggle against the world bourgeoisie. They don’t speak on behalf of the proletariat either international or national. And they don’t define their international policy in relation to the interests of the working class either in Nicaragua or in the world.
Confronted with the attacks of the most powerful imperialism in the world, they fight back, but as any nationalist government would do. If they turn towards Cuba or the USSR, it’s because they need to find allies. If they support some rebellions in Central America, it’s in order to put a counter-pressure to the governments and not to the peoples.
In November of 1985, Ortega at the UN stated, “Nicaragua is no enemy of the United States. There is no reason for the United States to consider Nicaragua as an enemy. Nicaragua respects the principles of the United Nations Charter, and we wish to live in peace with all nations of the earth, including the United States. Nothing in our revolutionary perspective is incompatible with normal and friendly relations with the United States.” This is not only a tactical statement aimed at embarrassing the Reagan administration. In no way do the Sandinistas pretend to be internationalist revolutionaries nor do they put their fight in an international framework. Clearly their proposal for their constitution says: “As a state and nation that aspires only to peace, we are proponents of detente, adversaries of military conflict, and promoters of peaceful coexistence among the peoples and nations of the world, regardless of their economic, political, or social systems.”
In the spring of 1985, Ramirez’ speech stated, “Nicaragua has backed the peace efforts of the group of Contadora countries with such determination and enthusiasm because we have been sure that this is a diplomatic alternative with a Latin American essence. This is an alternative of our own.”
If confronted with a mortal struggle with imperialism the FSLN proposes detente and friendly relations, this is not only the rhetoric of the weak in front of the strong, it’s also a bourgeois policy of respect for international law, diplomacy, and an attempt to find allies and trading partners in the acceptable framework, appealing to the governments, rather than to the peoples.
Repeatedly in their appeals to the peoples of Latin America, the FSLN speaks in the language and name of Bolivar, Marti, Zapata, and Sandino – in the voice of nationalism.
Nowhere does the FSLN pose an internationalist policy. Nowhere do they propose the linking of the Nicaraguan revolution with the revolts of the region, nor do they appeal to the working class in the more developed countries of the area like Argentina, Brazil or Mexico. They call only for the support of their revolution and not the combined forces of the Latin American masses united against the common enemy as the best defense of the interests of the workers and poor of Nicaragua, and the working class of the world.
VII. The fact that the Sandinistas came to power based on a popular uprising; that the regime today enjoys a popular support; that it has taken an anti-imperialist stance; and that it has tried to improve the life of the population; that it sometimes uses a socialist rhetoric – for the majority of the Trotskyist movement this is sufficient to characterize the Sandinistas as representing the interests of the working class and peasantry.
For the SWP, for example, there is a workers and farmers government in Nicaragua today, and the road of the Sandinistas can lead ultimately in the direction of the socialist construction. While the rest of the USec is more prudent in its language, in fact, it does not draw a different analysis. Both the SWP and the USec have drawn the organizational conclusion that there is no need for a separate Trotskyist organization in Nicaragua, thus proposing that the Sandinistas are the revolutionary vanguard.
VIII. Of course, it is certainly the duty of revolutionaries and especially of revolutionaries in the U.S., the major enemy of the people of Latin America today, to take the side of the Nicaraguan and Salvadoran people, and all who struggle against U.S. imperialism’s stranglehold.
Faced with the support the U.S. gives to the different reactionary forces and dictatorships in Central America, and the increasing threat of direct military intervention by U.S. imperialism, proletarian revolutionaries must support without reservation the Nicaraguan people, and the other peoples of Central America, and this means, as a consequence, to support their respective nationalist leaderships, the Sandinistas included of course, that these people accept today.
But that elementary duty of solidarity vis-a-vis the people of Nicaragua and Central America and their current leaderships doesn’t prevent us from carrying out another duty as proletarian revolutionaries. In Nicaragua and Central America, as everywhere in the world, the working class will be able to preserve its own interests in the short-run, as well as the possibility
of the proletarian revolution and socialism in the long term, only if it wins and keeps its political independence from the other social classes, the bourgeoisie or the petty bourgeoisie.
It’s why the Trotskyists must have as their goal the building of a proletarian international, which means genuine proletarian revolutionary parties in every country, including those of Central America.
And it’s why it is necessary, especially when we must support the nationalist leaderships in these countries against our own government, to avoid any political confusion. It is necessary to reassert very clearly that the nationalists, nowhere in the world, can represent the interests of the working class, nor of the socialist revolution. That can be the task only of the international proletariat.