Forwarded from Anthony (Bush victory)

Michael Hoover hoov at
Thu Dec 21 05:48:38 MST 2000

> For what it's worth, here's my analysis of why the Sandinista revolution
> imploded:
> In a very real sense, the gains of the Nicaraguan revolution were partially
> responsible for their undoing. The Agrarian Reform, in particular, caused
> traditional class relations in the countryside to fracture. Agricultural
> workers and poor campesinos no longer had to sell their labor at the
> cheapest price to the wealthy landowner. This, in turn, led to lower
> production of agricultural commodities.
> The accusation that the Nicaragua revolutionaries betrayed the possibility
> to move toward socialism is absurd. We can certainly say that the
> Sandinistas abandoned a revolutionary perspective, but the pressures on
> them to do so were extremely powerful. They did not forsake revolution
> because of common class interests with the Nicaraguan bourgeoisie, but
> because world capitalism and a rightward moving Soviet bureaucracy beat it
> into submission. The Nicaraguan revolution failed for the same reason that
> strikes sometimes fail: The boss is much stronger.
> Louis Proyect

I've never held "betrayal" view but, perhaps, as you indicated in
previous post, that comment isn't directed towards me...

Direct FSLN organizing campaigns - before July '79 and afterwards -
always produced mixed results.  Sandinista success came in giving
form & direction to political, economic, social developments.  FSLN
activits, for example, were instrumental in facilitating class-
orientation among popular movements.  Most dynamic mass organizations
were those maintaining autonomous existence, even as Sandinistas
were exerting influence upon them.

Prior to victory and overthrow of Somoza, FSLN was able to carry the
revolution to almost all possible social groups.  If vanguard mean
articulating & uniting struggle of broad-based front, then Sandinistas
performed that function.  And, if it means heightened importance in
post-revolutionary period, FSLN fits the bill (consider authentic
love that existed for them at one time).

Sandinistas took over country in ruins.  They initiated political
project directed at improving impoverished majority's lot while
allowing for continued privileged class participation.  Emphasizing
"national" character (in sense outlined by Carlos Vilas) of the
revolution, mixed-economy strategy intended to reduce class conflict
was undertaken.

Broad, popular support for FSLN initially came from distribution of
of confiscated Somoza property, implementation of health, housing,
literacy programs, and recognition of importance of mass organizations.
In keeping with adopted approach (a kind of "third way," if you will),
however, incentives were made available to capitalists and large-land
owners because they controlled big share of what Sandinistas want
produced.  As such, FSLN pursued developmental policies tied to
agricultural export, manufacturing, construction.  Government attempted
to influence these sectors through state control of credit.  Direct
state investment was channeled toward projects with long gestation
periods - textile combine, sugar refinery, deep-water port, irrigation

Emphasis on "modern" economy left Sandinistas vulnerable to
criticism when large, private producers proved uncooperative & state
enterprises were best by ineffective management.  Solid base of
campesino support was weakened some by initial land-reform establishing
cooperative & state farms rather than individual plots (however much
North American socialists wish it had been otherwise).  In industrial
sectors, FSLN position resembled bureaucratic-productivism that, at
times, made it antagonistic to labor, particularly in state-run

Sandinista bureaucratic style of management was impersonal and
hindered worker participation (it also generated power &
privilege for some).  FSLN did not have plan to develop &
expand participation, and if it had, war would have blocked it.
As it were, ever growing number of policy decisions were made
without popular input.  Disagreements - of which mixed economy
was prominent - could not be adequately addressed in context of
decade's circumstances.  FSLN was front organization that became
party, sort of.  It never held congress nor elected delegates
during 1980s.  What it did do was hold state power during period
of economic & military warfare, time not conducive to democracy.
Michael Hoover

More information about the Marxism mailing list