This Workers League Political Committee statement originally appeared in the Bulletin on March 9, 1990.
The outcome of the February 25 Nicaraguan elections has enormous significance for the working class in the Americas and internationally. It brings to a close 10 years of the Sandinista regime and demands that the lessons be drawn from this strategic experience in which distinct class forces and programs have been tested and exposed for what they really are.
The concession of defeat by Nicaragua’s ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) is the clearest confirmation of the organic incapacity of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois democracy—no matter how radical—to wage a consistent struggle against imperialism, and of its ultimate role as an agency of international capital.
This cowardly handing over of state power to the direct puppets of US imperialism and the very same political forces which the Nicaraguan workers and peasants have fought, arms in hand, for more than 10 years, represents the culmination of a series of betrayals of the oppressed masses and capitulations to imperialism by the petty-bourgeois nationalist leadership of the FSLN.
In this process, Stalinism has acted as a hangman of the Central American revolution. And all those revisionist and centrist elements which hailed the Sandinistas as “revolutionary Marxists” and proclaimed the Nicaraguan regime a “workers’ government” and even the standard bearer of the socialist revolution bear criminal responsibility as accomplices in this betrayal.
The events in Nicaragua underscore the crisis of revolutionary working class leadership and the enormous dangers which confront the workers and oppressed masses as a result of the rapid intensification of the world capitalist crisis. They place before the workers of Central America and internationally the urgency of building revolutionary proletarian parties based upon the program of permanent revolution.
In a real sense, the Sandinista capitulation signals the end of an era in which a host of bourgeois regimes and petty-bourgeois nationalist movements have been able to posture as substitutes for the revolutionary working class in the struggle against imperialism. Claiming to have stood for “non-capitalist roads” or even “socialism,” these regimes have, one after another, submitted to the dictates of the imperialist world market. In Latin America, the older bourgeois nationalist movements, such as Peronism in Argentina or the PRI in Mexico, have assumed the role of direct servants of imperialism, abandoning even the pretense of “national development” schemes and selling off the state industries and resources to the imperialist banks and multinationals.
The journalistic mouthpieces of the bourgeoisie have, of course, rushed to proclaim the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas as yet another example of the “collapse of socialism” and the “triumph of democracy.” This is a lie. The working class never took power, much less established socialism in Nicaragua. The Sandinista regime was a bourgeois, not a workers’ government, and its program was capitalist and not socialist.
There is a parallel between the events in Nicaragua and those in Eastern Europe, however. Despite their very different origins and historical development, in both cases the crisis of rule is rooted in the breakup of the postwar order and the rapid intensification of the fundamental contradictions of world imperialism, principally that between the increasing global integration of production and the nation-state system. This crisis has rendered all national programs bankrupt, both that of “socialism in one country” practiced by the Stalinist bureaucracies in Eastern Europe and that of the petty-bourgeois nationalist Sandinista Front in Nicaragua.
All the petty-bourgeois agencies of imperialism—the petty-bourgeois nationalists in the backward countries, the Stalinist bureaucracies in the deformed and degenerated workers’ states and social democracy and the anticommunist union bureaucracies in the advanced capitalist countries—are renouncing any opposition to the demands of finance capital for the liquidation of all the gains won in past struggles by the working class. Instead, they are openly joining the imperialists in seeking to impose the full burden of the economic crisis on the backs of the workers and oppressed.
Sandinista President Daniel Ortega attempted to explain the electoral defeat of the FSLN by declaring that the Nicaraguan people had “voted with a US gun pointed to their heads.” The contra war had cost more than 30,000 Nicaraguan fives and over two billion dollars in material damage. US imperialism’s economic blockade and organization of a systematic boycott against Nicaragua on the international credit markets had, together with the war, played a central role in cutting living standards in half. The Bush administration had made it abundantly clear that in the event of a Sandinista victory, the US stranglehold on Nicaragua would be tightened.
Furthermore, the invasion of Panama, which enjoyed the quiet acquiescence of both the Moscow bureaucracy and the national bourgeois regimes throughout Latin America, had demonstrated to the Nicaraguan regime that it could count on no support from these same quarters in the event of a US intervention.
US imperialism indeed placed a gun to the head of the Nicaraguan voter, but the Sandinistas loaded the bullets. The voting was held under conditions which represented the most grotesque violation of Nicaraguan sovereignty, with Washington funneling tens of millions of dollars in overt and covert aid to the UNO opposition and with every aspect of the balloting being submitted for the final approval of US imperialism.
Jimmy Carter, who as president had exerted every means short of a US invasion to save the hated dictator Somoza and prevent a Sandinista victory in 1979, undertook the role of imperialist arbiter of the Nicaraguan elections and subsequently remained in Nicaragua to oversee the transfer of power. Together with former Attorney General Elliot Richardson, acting under a UN cover, and Joao Baena Soares, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, Carter, accompanied by hundreds of aides, supervised every aspect of the election, down to the drafting of Ortega’s concession speech.
“I believe that the principal contribution the Sandinistas can make at this historical moment is in guaranteeing a clean, pure electoral process that lifts our spirits and ... illuminates the way to the consolidation of the mixed economy, to the consolidation of a free, independent and democratic Nicaragua....” This statement, made by Ortega in conceding defeat to the counterrevolutionary UNO alliance, is the clearest expression of the petty-bourgeois spinelessness and philistinism of the FSLN leadership. This conception that the successful completion of a bourgeois election which has handed power over to the puppets of imperialism constitutes a victory recalls Trotsky’s blistering answer to the “democratic” protestations and slanders of the social democratic renegade Karl Kautsky against the young Soviet workers’ state:
“And today the party of prostration and cowardice, the party of Kautsky, says to the working class: ‘The question is not whether you today are the sole creative force in history, whether you are capable of throwing aside that ruling band of robbers into which the propertied classes have developed; the question is not whether anyone else can accomplish this task on your behalf; the question is not whether history allows you any postponement (for the present condition of bloody chaos threatens to bury you yourself, in the near future, under the last ruins of capitalism). The problem is for the ruling imperialist bandits to succeed—yesterday or today—to deceive, violate and swindle public opinion, by collecting 51 percent of the votes against your 49 percent. Perish the world, but long live the parliamentary majority!’” (Terrorism and. Communism [London: New Park, 1975], p. 43).
This sordid electoral process was embraced by the Sandinista leadership as the means of officially declaring an end to its revolutionary pretensions, bowing to the demands of imperialism and transforming the FSLN into a standard bourgeois nationalist party. The path taken by the Sandinistas in organizing the election was apparently aimed at turning the FSLN into something akin to the ruling PRI in Mexico. With the defeat at the polls, Ortega, who will head up the “loyal opposition” in the Nicaraguan parliament, is following in the footsteps of such figures as Juan Bosch of the Dominican Republic or Michael Manley of Jamaica who, after being deposed for conflicting with Yankee imperialism, have returned as “responsible” defenders of the interests of domestic and foreign capital.
The victorious UNO coalition led by its figurehead presidential candidate Violeta Barrios de Chamorro has made no secret of its counterrevolutionary program. It intends to reverse the reforms carried out by the Sandinista regime, turning back businesses, land and other properties to the contras and their supporters who were expropriated in the course of the war. It plans to restore the pre-1979 position of the US ambassador as the imperialist proconsul, passing final judgment on Nicaragua’s economic and political affairs.
The economic program of the Chamorro regime has already been summed up by its Yale-educated economic adviser Francisco Mayorga Balladares, who presented his “UNO Agenda for Economic Recovery” to the Bush administration in Washington barely two weeks after the elections. This document calls for the selling off of all state enterprises to domestic and foreign capitalists, the outright elimination of government subsidies and the scrapping of economic regulation.
Moreover, in the transition talks with the Sandinistas, Mayorga has advocated the creation of a “gold cordoba” replacing the old Nicaraguan currency, the cordoba, which now trades at 64,000 to the dollar, with a new one backed by gold reserves and trading at a one-to-one ratio with the US currency. Even Chamorro herself has reacted to this proposal with fright, warning that the resulting devastation of the already abysmal living standards of the Nicaraguan masses would represent a mortal threat to her regime.
Mayorga dismissed these concerns, stating that he already has an agreement with Washington and that the US will provide $600 million to build up Nicaraguan reserves. Defending his proposal, Mayorga declared, “It is necessary to apply a strong shock from the beginning. How can I put it? The Sandinista economy is in a terminal state, therefore it is necessary to stick the knife in up to the handle.”
The attempt to implement this program will provoke sharp resistance from the working class. But it must be squarely acknowledged that the working class enters this struggle under conditions in which the initiative has been handed to its enemies due to the betrayals of the Sandinista leadership. For one thing, the elections have given the contras and their president the “legal” right to request direct US military intervention in Nicaragua under the pretext of “defending democracy.”
There was nothing inevitable about the events in Nicaragua. The demoralized conclusion being drawn by the combined forces of Stalinism, revisionism and petty-bourgeois radicalism—that US imperialism is simply too powerful to be challenged by a small and impoverished nation like Nicaragua—is a sinister fraud aimed at covering up their own complicity in the betrayal of the Nicaraguan Revolution. Every stage of this development had as determining factors the crisis of working class leadership and the inherent incapacity of petty-bourgeois nationalism to carry the struggle against the foreign and domestic exploiters to the end.
The Nicaraguan workers and peasants made the July 1979 revolution against Somoza and carried out enormous sacrifices in the war against the contra mercenaries in order to achieve the fundamental tasks of the democratic revolution—genuine national independence from Yankee imperialism, the resolution of the agrarian question and the destruction of the Somoza dictatorship which was imposed by Washington to oversee its interests. The petty-bourgeois program of the Sandinistas, however, has blocked the revolutionary road to achieving these historic goals.
The swing against the FSLN in the elections cannot be explained simply from the standpoint of the blackmail and manipulation of imperialism. More fundamental was the profound disillusionment of the working class and the oppressed masses with the petty-bourgeois nationalist leadership which had proven unwilling and unable to forge an independent path from imperialism and carry out the fundamental tasks of the revolution.
The counterrevolutionary program of UNO had already been prepared and partially implemented by the Sandinistas themselves before the elections were held. At the heart of this process was the Nicaraguan regime’s participation in the so-called Central American peace plan with chiefs of the four puppet regimes—El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica—which were acting as the stalking horses of US imperialism.
The Sandinista regime accepted the role of defender of Central America’s status quo of brutal political repression, economic exploitation and imperialist oppression. It repudiated its earlier slogan of “revolution without frontiers” and instead signed up as a border guard for imperialism. This reached its ultimate conclusion with a direct stab in the back to the revolution in neighboring El Salvador. Last December, less than a month after the offensive of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), Ortega joined the Central American puppets in signing a statement hailing the Salvadoran death squad regime of Alfredo Cristiani as “the product of democratic, pluralistic and participatory processes” and demanding the immediate disarming and demobilization of the FMLN liberation fighters, who were equated with the contra mercenaries.
In attacking the revolution in El Salvador and supporting a regime which in all essential respects is the blood brother of the Somoza dictatorship, the Sandinistas made explicit their renunciation of the very revolution which brought them to power.
To accept the “legitimacy” of the division of the Central American isthmus into six separate capitalist nation-states, each of them economically unviable and inevitably dependent upon imperialism, is to betray the fundamental task of the national democratic struggle in Central America—liberation from the crushing domination of Yankee imperialism. These irrational nation-state divisions are themselves the legacy of centuries of colonial and imperialist oppression of the region and are the foundations upon which have grown one bloody dictatorship after another.
The Sandinistas’ turning their backs on the revolutionary struggle in the rest of Central America was inseparable from their class position within Nicaragua itself. Contrary to all the revisionists’ “theoretical” innovations to paint the petty-bourgeois nationalists in communist and proletarian colors, the regime headed by Daniel Ortega was a capitalist regime, a state dedicated to the defense of capitalist property relations and opposed to the struggle of the working class for power.
The class position of the petty-bourgeois nationalist leadership was summed up in the course of the 1988 strike wave by Victor Tirado Lopez, one of the nine commandants of the FSLN’s national directorate. Asked by the official Sandinista newspaper Barricada about the mounting strikes and the increasing popular sentiment that the full weight of the economic crisis was being placed on the backs of the workers while capitalists were being granted ever greater privileges, Tirado cynically replied: “This is the price being paid by the whole labor movement. Or doesn’t the labor movement want to pay the price? Does it expect everything to fall like manna from heaven?
“The workers have to be clear about the alliances, the project of national unity ... and the mixed economy. They must be clear that the weight has to fall on them, the workers, because we are dealing with a revolution for them.... This is a revolution of workers and peasants and logically the main weight, the problems and the difficulties will fall on them. We couldn’t expect the bourgeoisie to bear the weight of this project.”
There could not be a clearer self-exposure of the “socialist” pretensions of the petty-bourgeois nationalists, extracting sacrifices from the working class and peasantry in order to benefit the bourgeoisie.
Sections of the bourgeoisie in Nicaragua, as throughout the countries oppressed by imperialism, chafed against the unrestricted domination of imperialism and its native stooge, the Somoza dictatorship, which prevented them from developing the conditions for their own exploitation of the Nicaraguan working class. Organized in such bodies as the FAO (Broad Popular Front), they launched employers’ strikes against the dictatorship. The radicalized petty-bourgeois layer in the leadership of the Sandinista Front allied itself with this anti-Somoza bourgeoisie, bringing such elements as Violeta Chamorro and Alfonso Robelo into their regime in 1979.
While imperialist military and economic aggression combined with the general impoverishment of the oppressed countries over the past decade are the source of Nicaragua’s economic destitution, these external pressures alone cannot explain the fact that in the 10 years since the Sandinista revolution, the economic gulf between the oppressed masses and the native bourgeoisie has widened dramatically. State subsidy policies provided Nicaraguan capitalists with windfall profits at the same time as the average worker’s real wages had fallen by 95 percent since 1980. Even though Chamorro and Robelo left the regime early on, the Sandinistas continued their unsuccessful attempt to placate the bourgeois elements which the departed government officials represented.
The Sandinista regime’s economic austerity policy, imposed in February 1989, represented the same basic program as the infamous starvation “adjustment” packages put together by the International Monetary Fund. It sought to cut inflation by slashing the real wages of workers, while subsidizing the bourgeois owners of the large plantations, the agro-exporting bourgeoisie, to produce cotton, coffee and sugar cane for the world market. This was combined with a massive devaluation and wholesale layoffs of some 34,000 state employees and the gutting of social programs to pay for the capitalists’ “production incentives.”
Together with this anti-working class program, the government lifted price subsidies on agricultural products and approved a law on foreign investment guaranteeing the full repatriation of profits.
From the beginning of their rule in 1979, the Sandinistas emerged as a left nationalist bourgeois regime, committed to the defense of capitalist private property under the scheme of a “mixed economy” and defended with demagogic slogans about “socialism” and “a government of workers and peasants,” combined with that of “a revolution with private property.”
Its plan for the development of Nicaragua was based upon the maintenance of not only domestic capitalism, but also Nicaragua’s subordination to the imperialist market. It did not seek the socialization of the means of production and the spreading of the revolution, but rather the maintenance of private ownership and the containment of the movement of the oppressed masses, expressed in a powerful wave of factory and land occupations in the wake of the 1979 revolution. The Sandinista scheme was based not on overthrowing imperialist domination, but rather on improving its terms. It sought to change the Nicaraguan economy from one based on the export of raw materials, to one based on agro-industry, or the export of processed materials.
While the Sandinistas made huge concessions to the agro-exporting bourgeoisie, offering them wildly favorable exchange rates and negative credit rates, the native capitalists repaid them not only by refusing to invest, but by shipping millions in speculative profits to Miami bank accounts, some of which then went to buy bullets for the contras to kill Nicaraguan workers and peasants.
Workers who struck against the austerity plans were in a number of cases fired or drafted into the army. Some of their leaders were jailed and the military was used to occupy factories. At the same time as this repression was unleashed against the proletariat, the Sandinista regime was initiating its amnesty for Somoza’s National Guard killers and the contra mercenaries. During the same period, it was releasing these counterrevolutionary criminals from prison, the Sandinistas began taking back arms which had been supplied to factory and cooperative farm militias.
The agrarian reform began from the same principle of seeking to maintain “national unity,” i.e., the Sandinistas’ “strategic alliance” with the national bourgeoisie. They failed to nationalize the land—a fundamental measure of the national democratic revolution—thereby maintaining the essential basis for backwardness and oppression in the countryside.
By leaving the latifundist landlords untouched while at the same time concentrating resources on building up the expropriated lands of the Somoza dynasty as agro-industrial state farms, the Sandinistas increasingly alienated large sections of the peasantry by dashing their hopes that the revolution would provide them with land. In addition, while offering the greatest concessions to the agro-exporting bourgeoisie, largely through preferential exchange rates, the Sandinista regime demanded that the smaller peasants producing for the domestic market sell their products cheaply to the state.
It was only in response to the contra threat that the Sandinista regime carried out a more intensive land reform program in the border areas, to undermine sympathy for the contras. With the signing of the peace accords, the agrarian reform was brought to a standstill.
The class nature of the Sandinista regime has been clearly spelled out in the elections themselves. It is a bourgeois regime, replete with a president, parliament and professional army. There was never in the Nicaraguan Revolution the formation of workers’ councils or any independent organs of workers’ power. As with virtually every petty-bourgeois nationalist regime, from that of Fidel Castro in Cuba to Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, the Sandinistas formed their own “popular” committees, the CDS, or Sandinista Defense Committees. In Nicaragua, as elsewhere, revisionist opportunists attempted to imbue these committees with the characteristics of soviets. They were nothing of the kind. Rather, they were imposed by the ruling party to prevent the emergence of genuine organs of the working class and were in no sense independent or democratic.
The cast of characters in the transfer of power further bears out the class nature of the Sandinista regime. Violeta Chamorro, the president elect, was herself a member of the Government of National Reconstruction which the Sandinistas formed in 1979. Virgilio Godoy, the virulently rightwing vice presidential candidate of UNO, was named by the Sandinistas as secretary of labor in that same government Many of UNO’s top advisers and prospective cabinet ministers, such as Alfredo Cesar, Alfonso Robelo and Pedro Joaquin Chamorro Jr., are likewise former officials or supporters of the Sandinista government who went on to become paid CIA agents in the leadership of the contras.
Furthermore, the role played by Jimmy Carter in the elections was no accident. From the beginning, the petty-bourgeois nationalist Sandinista leadership’s attitude toward US imperialism was one of seeking an accommodation with a “liberal” section of the imperialist bourgeoisie. It never issued a class appeal to the American working class, calling for unity against the common enemy of capitalist exploiters. On the contrary, it urged the opponents of imperialist aggression in the US to orient their protests toward the Democratic Party and ultimately to enter this capitalist party and seek to elect its reactionary candidates.
From the standpoint of the class character of the regime, it is noteworthy that the Sandinista regime maintained not only the tax structure of the Somoza dictatorship, but also its repressive labor code! The inability of the petty-bourgeois nationalist leadership to achieve even the formal goals of the democratic revolution is expressed in the constitution’s continued offer of state protection to religious education while, in a further reactionary concession to the Catholic church, abortion remains a crime.
In the wake of the February 25 election, what above all is required is a strategic assessment of the results of the past period of domination of petty-bourgeois nationalism and the forging of a new independent revolutionary proletarian party in Central America as a section of the International Committee of the Fourth International.
Such a party can only be built based on the strategy of permanent revolution, developed by Trotsky as the fundamental perspective of proletarian internationalism in the imperialist epoch. Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution was confirmed in the October 1917 Revolution, in which the proletariat, under the leadership of the Bolsheviks, took the lead of the oppressed urban and rural petty-bourgeois masses, overthrew the tsar, the semi-feudal landed aristocracy and the bourgeoisie, and established the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Trotsky defended the theory of permanent revolution against the retrograde Menshevik theories of “two-stage revolution” and “bloc of four classes” which were resuscitated by Stalinism in order to subordinate the proletariat to the national bourgeoisie.
The Nicaraguan experience has reaffirmed the fundamental tenet of permanent revolution: in the countries oppressed by imperialism, the democratic revolution cannot be achieved under the bourgeoisie or any of its factions. This class and its spokesmen among the petty-bourgeois nationalists are organically incapable of sustaining any independent role. Their dependence on imperialism and their fear of the proletariat make their completion of the democratic tasks impossible and ensure their ultimate turn to reaction, no matter how left-sounding their initial slogans.
Only the proletariat, winning the leadership of the peasantry and the oppressed masses as a whole, is capable of carrying through these tasks by its own methods, those of the socialist revolution, and by establishing its own, proletarian dictatorship. This struggle inevitably raises the class demands of the workers themselves for socialism and can only be maintained and completed on the basis of the world socialist revolution.
This fundamental thesis, confirmed so powerfully in the October Revolution of 1917, has been proven in the negative not only in Nicaragua, but in country after country over the past decades. The democratic revolution has been betrayed by the bourgeoisie and its petty-bourgeois agents which have exploited the sacrifices of the masses in the national struggle for their own class interests. Such has been the result of national liberation struggles in Algeria, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, to name just a few examples.
The immediate past period has seen historic betrayals not only by the Sandinistas, but also by the Palestine Liberation Organization, which renounced its basic program of a democratic Palestine and accepted the legitimacy of the Zionist state of Israel, and the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, which first sanctioned the counterrevolutionary Indo-Lankan Accord and then declared its alliance with the racist regime of Premadasa against the continuation of the Indian occupation.
Stalinism has played a direct role in sabotaging the revolutionary aspirations of the masses of Central America. This was openly acknowledged by the US State Department which called a special briefing following the February 25 elections to express US imperialism’s gratitude to the Gorbachev bureaucracy for its assistance in Nicaragua.
Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Ion Bourliai expressed Moscow’s satisfaction with the results of the election, declaring, “The Nicaraguans made their choice. They voted for peace, freedom, democracy, national reconciliation and consent and the country’s economic revival and social progress.”
This collaboration was the culmination of continuous pressure by the Gorbachev bureaucracy to drive Nicaragua back under the direct control of US imperialism. From the outset of the revolution, the Soviet Stalinists made it clear they had no intention of challenging Washington’s domination of Central America nor of subsidizing the petty-bourgeois nationalist regime as they had with the Castro regime in Cuba.
The turn by the Soviet bureaucracy under Gorbachev to a program of restoring capitalist property relations within the USSR has been accompanied by a new level of complicity with imperialism against the working class both in the Soviet Union and internationally. The Stalinist regime has established a direct alliance with world imperialism in pursuit of its goal of transforming itself into a new capitalist class and, as a result, has abandoned even the pretense of a “socialist” or “anti-imperialist” foreign policy.
By 1987, the Gorbachev bureaucracy was cutting back on oil supplies to Managua as a means of pressuring the Sandinista regime into capitulation to imperialism via the Esquipulas accord, and beginning in 1988, it slashed arms shipments until it totally cut them off in 1989. At the Malta summit with Bush, Gorbachev provided assurances that the Sandinistas would carry through with the US-supervised elections and abide by the results.
Nicaraguan Stalinism has played a particularly despicable part. The Nicaraguan CP, founded in 1940, quickly collaborated with the Somoza dictatorship in the “war against fascism” and maintained its allegiance to the despot until his overthrow. It was the betrayal of Stalinism which was primarily responsible for placing the leadership of the national revolution of 1979 not in the hands of the Nicaraguan proletariat, but in those of the petty-bourgeois nationalists of the FSLN. While the Stalinist party split, both factions—the PSN (Nicaraguan Socialist Party), which has since affiliated to social democracy, and the PCdeN (Communist Party of Nicaragua)—joined with the Somocistas and contra supporters in the UNO electoral alliance.
The Castro regime has itself played a special role in betraying the Central American revolution. From the outset, it counseled the Sandinistas not to follow “the Cuban example,” but to instead seek a compromise with both US imperialism and the native bourgeoisie. Castro was simply relating the obvious fact that the type of Soviet subsidies and defense which had sustained his own petty-bourgeois nationalist regime over the past 31 years would not be available to the Sandinistas.
Castro has seen his own room for maneuver increasingly circumscribed by the ever closer collaboration of the Kremlin with imperialism and the moves toward capitalist restoration in Eastern Europe. The resulting political crisis of the Castro regime has found its expression in the grotesque show trial and execution of Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa last summer and in the emergence and repression of opposition tendencies within the Communist Party’s youth movement in recent months.
Like the Sandinistas, Castro has failed to resolve the basic tasks of the democratic revolution in Cuba. Hailed by all manner of revisionists as genuine socialism and even a “workers’ state,” his regime has exhibited the most ruthless opposition to any independent political expression of the working class, summed up in its rabid hatred of Trotskyism. While Soviet subsidies and the nationalization of the productive forces have made extensive social reforms possible in Cuba, the Castro regime has proven incapable of transforming the basic dependence of the island’s economy on the sugar monoculture. Likewise it has explicitly renounced any attempt to extend revolution to the rest of Latin America, instead calling for a strategic alliance with the national bourgeoisie of the continent for the purpose of renegotiating the foreign debt.
The wreckage of the Sandinista regime has exposed the perspectives of the Pabloite revisionists, whose cheerleading for petty-bourgeois nationalism represented an attempt to subordinate the revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat to the domination of bourgeois nationalism and, through it, to imperialism. Those forces like the police-ridden Socialist Workers Party of the US or the United Secretariat of Ernest Mandel who proclaimed the Sandinista regime a “workers’ government” or even “proletarian dictatorship” served as direct accomplices in the betrayal of the revolutionary struggles of the Central American masses.
The United Secretariat led by Mandel supported the Sandinistas’ creation of the Government of National Reconstruction and has continuously opposed the building of any independent revolutionary party of the proletariat to fight for the interests of the working class against this bourgeois regime.
Mandel likewise extended his effusive support to the Esquipulas II accord in which the Latin American bourgeoisie provided the framework for the Sandinistas’ capitulation to imperialism. This was clearly spelled out in the Belgian Pabloite newspaper La Gauche, which declared in its November 17, 1987 issue that “this peace accord represents an important victory for Nicaragua and a very hard blow to American imperialism.”
The police-ridden Socialist Workers Party of the US adopted similar positions. Its leader Jack Barnes, in his December 1982 speech explicitly renouncing any connection between the SWP and Trotsky’s perspective of permanent revolution, declared that the FSLN, together with Castro’s Cuban Communist Party and the ill-fated New Jewel Movement of Grenada, represented “the revival—on the level of proletarian parties in power—of genuine communism.”
As for the Morenoites in Argentina, in the closing days of the Sandinista-led revolution, they organized the Simon Bolivar Brigade, whose very name expressed their own grotesque adaptation to bourgeois nationalism. Having entered Nicaragua only days before the fall of Somoza, this brigade was subsequently driven out of Nicaragua at gunpoint by the Sandinistas. Still, the Morenoites admitted as late as the January 1989 edition of their journal Correo International, “For these nine years, our current held open the possibility that, in the heat of the brutal imperialist pressure on the one hand and that of the masses on the other, the Sandinista leadership would find itself forced to go beyond its intentions, expropriating the bourgeoisie and imperialism....”
The Morenoite tendency specialized in providing a “left” face to the Pabloite capitulation to petty-bourgeois nationalism. Joining with the rest of the Pabloite groups in proclaiming Cuba a “workers’ state,” it made verbal criticisms of the petty-bourgeois nationalists of the FSLN, while calling on them to “follow the Cuban example.”
At the heart of the Pabloite revisionist attack on the Fourth International was its rejection of the fundamental Marxist conception that socialism can only be achieved through the revolutionary initiative of a mass proletarian movement, made conscious of its historical task through the intervention of a Marxist proletarian party. This revisionist trend constantly found other roads to socialism, via Stalinism or petty-bourgeois nationalism, all of which have proven dead ends.
The developments in Nicaragua have underscored the decisive importance of the International Committee’s struggle, since its foundation in 1953, against Pabloite revisionism’s capitulation to the national bourgeoisie and its petty-bourgeois agencies. This aspect of Pabloite liquidationism, together with its attribution of a revolutionary role to the Stalinist bureaucracy, represented an adaptation to the postwar imperialist settlement. In particular, it was a capitulation to the policy of the imperialist bourgeoisie in the backward countries, which attempted to head off proletarian revolution by ceding to the national bourgeoisie a bogus independence, in which none of the basic tasks of the democratic national struggle were achieved.
In 1963, the Pabloites, led by Mandel, and the SWP, then led by Joseph Hansen, reunified on the basis of an agreement to define Cuba as a workers’ state and to advance Castro’s petty-bourgeois guerrillaism as a substitute for the building of a Marxist proletarian party as the conscious vanguard of the working class. The counterrevolutionary character of this Pabloite liquidationism was written in the blood of the working class of Latin America, where it led to the liquidation of Trotskyist parties and paved the way for catastrophic defeats in the 1970s.
The breakdown of the postwar order has definitively unmasked the political fictions upon which Pabloite revisionism has rested for nearly four decades. Just as its predictions of “centuries of deformed workers’ states” have been exploded by the revolutionary crisis in Eastern Europe, so too its adulation of petty-bourgeois nationalism has been exposed in Nicaragua.
The Sandinista debacle underscores once again that the lessons of the struggle against revisionism must be assimilated in order to confront the challenge of building the world party of socialist revolution which the working class requires.
The workers of Nicaragua and throughout Central America can accept neither the return to power of the counterrevolutionary forces backed by US imperialism nor the wiping out of the limited gains won through the 1979 revolution. They cannot allow the selling off of the nationalized industry nor the turning back of land to the Somocista landlords.
To resist the counterrevolutionary threat which has been ushered in by the Sandinistas’ betrayal, the working class requires a revolutionary socialist program aimed at expropriating the Nicaraguan bourgeoisie and placing the factories, shops and land under the control of the workers and peasants and extending the revolution to the oppressed masses of Central America and internationally.
Recognizing the enormous dangers posed to the Nicaraguan and Central American masses as a result of the planned transfer of power to Washington’s puppets in Managua, the Workers League calls upon the American working class to defend Nicaragua against imperialist intervention. It must demand the immediate withdrawal of all US military forces from the region and fight for the unity of the workers of South, Central and North America for the defeat of the common enemy, Yankee imperialism, by means of the socialist revolution.
Above all, it must redouble the struggle against the traitors in the AFL-CIO bureaucracy. While betraying every working class struggle at home, they have served as valued partners of US imperialism’s bloody conspiracies in Central America through such CIA “labor fronts” as the Agency for International Free Labor Development (AIFLD). American workers must drive these imperialist stooges out of the unions and replace them with a revolutionary internationalist leadership, dedicated to uniting the struggles of the American workers with those of their class brothers in Latin America and internationally.
The most urgent question is the building of an independent revolutionary party uniting the working class of Nicaragua with that of Central America as a whole, fighting on the basis of the Trotskyist perspective of permanent revolution to carry through the uncompleted tasks of the democratic revolution through the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat Such a party must be built as the Central American section of the International Committee of the Fourth International.