[Marxism] Nicaragua 25 years later

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 23 09:25:50 MDT 2004

I am actually working on an article for Phil Ferguson's magazine that 
will expore this topic in some depth, but I would be remiss if I didn't 
comment on ISO leader Lee Sustar's article that appears in today's 
Counterpunch at: http://www.counterpunch.org/sustar07232004.html

While giving the FSLN a generally good report card, Lee gives them a 
failing grade on the class struggle, a prerequisite for advancing to the 
graduate school of socialism. He writes:

 >>While the U.S. and its contra butchers are to blame for the 
destruction of the Nicaraguan economy, the contradiction at the heart of 
the FSLN’s politics was instrumental in its downfall. FSLN leaders 
couldn’t escape the centrality of class divisions in the "revolutionary 
alliance"--the fact that workers and "nationalist" employers had 
contradictory interests.

The conditions of workers had deteriorated throughout the 1980s as 
runaway inflation wiped out wage gains. Workers participated in 
Sandinista unions and mass organizations--but they didn’t hold political 
power, and their right to strike was suspended for a year as early as 
1981. This allowed the opportunistic Nicaraguan Socialist Party--a 
longtime rival of the FSLN--to give a left-wing cover to Chamorro’s 
coalition, which in turn functioned as the respectable face of the 

Just a couple of comments.

First of all, you would get the impression from Sustar that the 
"revolutionary alliance" was some kind of popular front. In reality, the 
Sandinista government was anything but a cross-class alliance. Political 
decisions were made by the directorate, which had no connection to the 
Nicaraguan bourgeoisie.

Furthermore, it is doubtful that an all-out assault on the big, 
privately owned farms in Nicaragua would have strengthened the 
revolution in any measurable fashion. These farms were mainly involved 
in agroexport, which was a source of desperately needed foreign 
currency. A radical land reform might have yielded an immediate 
improvement for some peasants, but the nation as a whole would have 
suffered from an inability to purchase imported manufactured goods. 
After all, it was sugar and beef that could be marketed internationally, 
not beans and corn. If these big farms had been seized by the state, the 
owners and the managers would have simply disappeared to Miami. Speaking 
as somebody who helped to place skilled agronomists and engineers in 
Nicaragua, I can assure you that Nicaragua could have ill-afforded such 
a disruption to an already chaotic economic. Of course, on paper there 
is always a radical solution to everything.

With respect to the statement that "workers...didn’t hold political 
power" and "their right to strike was suspended for a year as early as 
1981," this is just a boilerplate sectarian critique that could be 
raised against the Soviet Union in the 1920s, as well. For such an 
anti-working class government, it is odd that the Reagan administration 
broke laws and risked a constitutional crisis to overthrow it. Generally 
speaking, they have a much better grasp of class relations than those 
who have never held power in the name of the class they claim to represent.


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