Nicaragua, socialism and Sandanistas

Andy Daitsman adaitsma at
Fri Jul 7 13:17:35 MDT 1995

Jerry wrote:

>The Sandinistas, like the ANC is today, were a heterogeneous organization
>with many different factions and political perspectives.  Ortega, in my
>view, was a centrist who attempted to accommodate the different factions
>of his own party.

It is true that the Terceristas, Ortega's faction of the FSLN, were the most
heterodox ideologically of the three tendencies within Sandinismo.  I
wouldn't exactly call Ortega a centrist, though.

>It is true that many Sandanista forces favored socialism (especially
>those forces who were aligned with Castroism).  But, the Nicaraguan
>government, under Sandanista leadership, never argued that they wanted to
>build socialism in Nicaragua.  The Nicaraguan government under Ortega et.
>al. consistently said that they were in favor of maintaining a market
>economy but with significant reforms and nondependent development.  Their
>economic vision and policies could be described as left Keynesian and
>Social Democratic.

I really don't know if I agree with this Jerry.  First, Castro consistently
pushed the FSLN to take a moderate line--go slow on transition to socialism
and work for good relations with the US.  Given this historical role, I
wouldn't want to identify the more radical forces in Nicaragua with "Castroism."

Second, I think you're selling the Sandinista economic program a little
short.  It's true that their objective from the beginning was to maintain a
market economy, but at least until the mid-80s their vision of this was
significantly greater than left-Keynesian.  The way I understand it, the
FSLN strategy for a transition to socialism was similar to that of the UP in
Chile--leave the market economy in place, but seize control over the
"commanding heights" of the economy.  The Chileans tried to do this by
identifying and expropriating strategic industries--especially copper, but
other basic industries as well.  In Nicaragua, the FSLN's first act was to
expropriate all of Somoza's economic holdings, thereby giving themselves
immediate control over about 40% of the country's productive potential.  The
strategy failed; due in no small part to the ongoing war with the US, the
Nicaraguan economy collapsed by about 1985.  After that time, the
Sandinistas adopted increasingly orthodox economic programs, and even began
privatizing the state industries they had accumulated up to that point.


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