Nicaragua, Sandinistas and Socialism

glevy at glevy at
Sat Jul 8 18:49:02 MDT 1995

Chris B. wrote:
> The description of the policies of
> the Sandinistas given by Louis and others sounds to me like
> a national democratic programme, in marxist terms,
> (or as the Chinese
> called it from 1945-1955, because the conditions were
> favourable to what they intended to be working class
> leadership, a "new democratic programme".)

As I recall, Mao's program outlined in the pamphlet "On New Democracy"
proposed a coalition government with the national bourgeoisie and a
state-directed market economy.  There are analogies, I think Chris is
correct, between the "new democracy" period in China, the UP government
under Allende in Chile, and the Nicaraguan government under Sandanista

What all had in common was a belief that a bourgeois democratic revolution
was necessary prior to socialism given the underdeveloped nature of the
economies in each of these countries.  Theoretically, each accepted the
two-step theory of revolution, i.e. first there is capitalist development
and bourgeois rule and then social transformation.  This theory was
endorsed and popularized by the Communist International post-Lenin.

In China the "new democracy" proposal by the CCP for a coalition
government was not accepted by the Koumintang leadership, other bourgeois
parties, or any significant sector of the bourgeoisie (nationally or
internationally).  As a consequence, Mao and the CCP moved quickly away
from the "new democracy" proposal to assert direct rule by the CCP and to
reorganize the economy along Soviet lines (that is, until Mao broke with
the USSR).  This was obviously a very different dynamic than what we
observed in Nicaragua.  There, the Nicaraguan government was a "popular"
government which (other than nationalizing Somosa's holdings and
redistributing land to the peasantry), did not propose moving towards
either the Soviet model or any other type of socialism.  No doubt, this
policy was heavily influenced by the international pressures placed upon
the Nicaraguan government by international lending agencies and foreign
capitalist governments, most particularly Social Democratic governments
in Europe. I think that so long as the US-inspired war with the "contras"
continued, the Nicaraguan government believed that it neither had the
popular support or the economic resources necessary for a socialist
transformation.  As a previous post also pointed out, the Cuban
government (and also the USSR) encouraged the Sandanistas to maintain
their policy of supporting a market economy with government intervention.
Castro probably thought that the "time was not right" for socialization.

The Unidad Popular government under Allende in Chile which was overthrown
in the bloody coup of 1973, was similar in some ways to the "new
democracy" proposal in China.  The government, led by the Chilean
Socialist Party, was a coalition government of the SP, the CP, and left
liberal bourgeois political parties.  Allende favored a "peaceful
transition to socialism" through gradual reforms and nationalization of
foreign holdings.  This policy of nationalization inspired the US
government to organize a CIA-sponsored coup (I believe George Bush was
the CIA Director at the time).  That coup could not have happened, at the
time and manner in which it developed, had  Allende moved to reorganize
state institutions, most particularly the Army  whose Generals orchestrated
the coup (with CIA guidance).

Clearly, the Nicaraguan government was very well aware of the Chilean
"experiment."  Perhaps their perception of that experience caused the
Nicaraguan government to never claim that they even wanted to reform
their way to socialism.  It should be remembered that Castro had been a
supporter of the Unidad Popular in Chile and was most likely afraid of a
similar reaction by US capital to nationalization and socialization.  In
retrospect, it is easy to see that the Nicaraguan government's "moderate"
policies did not work, in large part because they had Reagan and the
"evil empire" argument to contend with.

All three experiences (China, Chile, Nicaragua) raise a question which
has been around as long as socialists have been around:  how do you get
to socialism?  Related questions concern the role of the capitalist
state, reform vs. revolution, and the prospects for socialism in less
developed capitalist economies.


     --- from list marxism at ---


More information about the Marxism mailing list