The Role of the Bourgeoisie in the Sandinista Revolution
Though Karl Marx is known primarily for his criticisms of capitalism, he developed another theory about the progression towards social justice through a series of revolutions that would eventually lead to the “end of history”. In the case of Nicaragua’s revolution in 1979, many of the revolutionary leaders of the Sandinista National Liberation Front were influenced by this sort of Marxist-Leninist thought after having spent a considerable amount of time in communist Cuba. However, due to Nicaragua’s unique situation, the FSLN chose to downplay their aims instead of promoting their socialist ideals in order to gain widespread acceptance of the Nicaraguan people, thus creating a powerful multiclass alliance. By the final months of the revolution, students, intellectuals, labour unions, peasants and bourgeoisie united and worked together despite differences in order to remove the corrupt Somoza family from power.
However, following the end of this regime, the FSLN faced a new series of problems due to the competing class interests of its supporters. For instance, the socialist aims of redistributing land to poor peasant workers clashed with the capitalist’s interests because they owned much of that land. Nonetheless, the FSLN had to find common ground between the two major classes. The bourgeoisie’s interests could not be ignored given the state of severe economic crisis and foreign aggression in the country. This meant that the government was dependent on the bourgeoisie to revive the economy and to gain international credibility to profit from foreign loans and reduce external pressure.
My thesis will touch upon the subject of bourgeoisie in the new Nicaraguan regime. I will argue that the bourgeoisie’s involvement in the revolutionary process within Nicaragua has been and continues to be a crucial asset for its success. Their interests, therefore, cannot be ignored even though they may seem to contradict many of the FSLN’s socialist goals. Their party cannot retain strictly socialist policies, as some factions of their group believe, if they wish to succeed. The FSLN must be willing to negotiate their initial goals and compromise. If not, their leadership will fail as the bourgoisie, international community and more politically moderate and alienated Nicaraguans will rebel and establish yet again a new social order. To support my argument, I plan to explore the reasons behind why the bourgeoisie supported the FSLN, even though it meant overthrowing a capitalist system in which they were capitalists in exchange for a new order that would deny them the same privileges. I will also examine the current situation and adaptations to the economy that have been made to suit the bourgeoisie as well as critically analyze how the FSLN is supposedly keeping a significant role for the private sector while remaining centered on the interests of the lower classes.
Conroy, Michael E. “False Polarisation? Differing Perspectives on the Economic
Strategies of Post-Revolutionary Nicaragua.” Third World Quarterly 6.4
(1984): 993-1032. JSTOR. Web. 9 Feb. 2010.
In the article, Conroy argues that “there exists a false polarisation of the Nicaraguan experience, designed to delegitimise it in the eyes of those who have limited access to information” (994). Hence, the author’s main focus is on Nicaragua’s series of economic policies unique to its situation which have made it difficult to associate the country with a specific ideology. As a result, Conroy points out that Nicaragua has come under criticism from both the left and the right. Conroy believes that Nicaragua has instead chosen a “third road” combining different aspects from various ideologies; nonetheless, external powers such as the United States continue to identify the country with Marxist tendencies and view it as a threat. Conroy claims that the perceived polarization is contradictory because, ironically, much of the policies currently in place that the United States are criticizing so severely have been endorsed by them at one point or another in the past. Though this article is a long read, selected parts of it will help me relate the economic situation in Nicaragua to the demands of the bourgeoisie. Futhermore, it will help clarify the existing opposition to Nicaragua’s revolutionary government in order to help explain why the country is in such a vulnerable state.
Harris, Richard L. “The Revolutionary Transformation of Nicaragua.” Latin
American Perspectives. 14.1 (1987): 3-18. JSTOR. Web. 9 Feb. 2010.
This article focuses on issues in the new Nicaraguan regime by exploring the conditions and demands of various classes. However, Harris recognizes that the government must first and foremost deal with U.S. aggression before proceding to focus on other pressing social, economic and political issues; this has made economic recovery and the revolutionary process all the more difficult to acheive. Nonetheless, Harris argues that the government has made many positive transformations in Nicaraguan society and which have in turn provoked new forms of class struggle and need for new transformations. The images and subtitles in this article make it an easy read. It will help lay the foundation for my argument by broadening my understanding of the changes in various class relationships since the revolution.
Judson, Fred. “Sandinista Revolutionary Morale.” On the Revolutionary
Transformation of Nicaragua 14.1 (1987): 19-42. JSTOR. Web. 9 Feb. 2010.
This article focus on Marx’s concept of the subjective, arguing that “the consciousnesses of human beings acting in history is as necessary as are objective conditions in a revolutionary process” (19). Judson emphasizes the importance of revolutionary morale in the Nicaraguan revolution, especially in light of U.S. aggression. He believes that reason alone does not suffice to ensure the participation and commitment of the population; there must be a nonrational, emotional component to revolutionary morale which is both powerful and necessary to endure the sacrifices and suffering in the proces. This concept is particularly interesting when applied to the bourgeoisie in Nicaragua who decidedly devoted themselves to the revolution following the assassination of La Prensa editor Pedro Joaquin Chamorro. Terminology is well expressed in this article and definitions are repeated throughout for additional clarity.
Leogrande, William M. “Making the Economy Scream: US Economic Sanctions
against Sandinista Nicaragua.” Third World Quarterly 17.2 (1996): 329-348.
JSTOR. Web. 9 Feb. 2010.
This article discusses the level of efficacy of the various measures undertaken by the U.S. government in their longstanding campain to destabilize the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. The author contends that economic sanctions have proven to be highly effective, perhaps even more so than paramilitary engagement. He supports his argument by comparing overt and covert support for the counterrevolutionary Contras in Nicaragua with the costs of war combined with the imposition of economic sanctions to show which of the two played a more important role leading up to to the Sandinista defeat in the 1990 elections. Leogrande uses tables, graphs and statistics to illustrate his views and contest other analyses. This source sheds some light on Nicaragua’s economic crisis and therefore helps illustrate the state’s reliance on the bourgeoisie.
Nori, Pamela J. The Nicaraguan Revolution: A State-Centered Explanation. Ontario:
Simon Fraser University, 1985. Web. 9 Feb. 2010.
This essay provides an in-depth analysis of the Nicaraguan revolution and discusses the contributing factors, both internal and external, which led to the overthrow of the Somoza regime in 1979. Nori’s explanation describes the historical context dating as far back as the turn of the twentieth century. However, her focus is on the relations between the state and the upper classes. She examines various theories by other scholars which seek to explain what led to a multi-class alliance, that which made them willing to set aside their differences to attain a common goal. This source will help me illustrate the unique position of the bourgeoisie in Nicaraguan society which eventually led it to join the revolutionary process. “The psychological theories of revolution”, “the Marxist approaches”, “the weakening support for the regime” and “the upper class opposition” parts of her paper are of particular interest and relevance to my thesis.
Sholk, Richard. “The National Bourgeoisie in Post-Revolutionary Nicaragua.”
Comparative Politics 16.3 (2003): 253-276. JSTOR. Web. 9 Feb. 2010.
This article focuses on class contradictions in the new Nicaraguan regime while the FSLN attempts to overcome these differences and maintain popular support from both the public and private sectors. Sholk demonstrates how the government is indeniably dependent on the bourgeoisie and acquiese to some of its demands while remaining true to its promise of helping establish a better situation for the poor majority. Moreover, the article mentions that external threats make the balance between the public and private sectors even more fragile than it already is and relations with the state more strained. As a result, Sholk postulates that the ongoing tension between the state and the bourgeoisie may be unworkable because of their fundamentally conflicting ideals. The article’s discussion of bourgeoisie will help me draw links the current state of affairs in the country.