From Military to Social Confrontation
The UNO government is using its honeymoon period to try to confuse the opposition. First, it gives signs of peaceful coexistence, such as expediting contra demobilization, reforming the university autonomy law by consensus (see “Nicaragua Briefs”), and sometimes showing willingness to negotiate with Sandinista unions. Then, almost simultaneously, it promotes confrontation through massive layoffs, legal arbitrariness and the return of land to Somocistas.
These apparent vacillations in policy are not the expression of the government’s confusion or lack of a political project. On the contrary, they are part of a calculated strategy to weaken and divide the opposition and consolidate the Chamorro faction's own power over the state apparatus.
One face of UNO: ConciliationFor the Chamorro faction, the political understanding reached with the FSLN in the transition agreement boiled down to carrying out the demobilization of the contras and respecting Sandinista Popular Army (EPS) commands.
The Contras. Before the elections, the FSLN saw the total dismantling of the contra military force as the most important guarantee of the revolution's survival. Since its electoral defeat and the change of government, it has continued to give this its highest political priority, paying an internal political cost for subordinating other serious problems. In June 1990, this goal was virtually reached, enormously facilitated, of course, by the election results (See “The War Ends—Where Is Peace?” in this issue).
After obtaining some exaggerated economic benefits, the contras entered into an irreversible disarmament process in June, increasingly becoming more of a political phenomenon with their own rural demands. The violence is not over: there are still armed insurrection groups, troops out of control, hidden weapons, armed Sandinista peasants defending their lives and lands and individual vengeance between contra and Sandinista peasants. The full pacification of the country will take years, but the counterrevolution is no longer a military threat.
The EPS. Despite heavy pressures from the United States and the Godoy faction of UNO, the government accepted the plan for restructuring the EPS submitted by General Humberto Ortega. The plan includes the reduction of the army to 41,000 within weeks. In this way, the government partially complies with its political program to reduce the army to peacetime levels. At the same time, the FSLN recognizes the reality, as stated in Barricada, that “even if Sandinismo had won the elections on February 25, the restructuring of the army and its adaptation to the country economic needs would have been an immediate task, once the process of disarming the contras was on an irreversible path.”
More important still was the government’s acceptance of the thesis that any greater reductions of the army, or total dismantling as demanded by the far Right, could only be considered within the regional framework of negotiating what the Contadora draft treaty defines as a “reasonable balance of forces” in the region.
The US is not in agreement with some of the government’s decisions. During his interview with President Chamorro after the recent summit meeting in Guatemala, US Secretary of State James Baker reminded her that retaining Humberto Ortega as head of the military continues to be unacceptable. To reinforce this message, (at the same time shoring up the Salvadoran government’s position in its negotiations with the FMLN) the State Department leaked “news” to The New York Times that the EPS was still sending arms to the Salvadoran guerrillas.
The other face of UNO: Executive offensiveIn what constitutes the reappearance of a national bourgeoisie, the Las Palmas group (or Chamorro faction) has the historic objective of presenting itself as an alternative to both the US and the FSLN, but cannot afford to enter into conflict with either one. Ironically, its immediate political and business need is a stability that can only be assured by the FSLN socially and the US economically.
Aware of being in its first months of office and, therefore, at the peak of its credibility and capacity for political maneuvering, the Las Palmas group sought to take a decisive step toward implementing its liberal reformist capitalist project. To implement its program, consolidating power became strategically imperative and administratively necessary, so it looked for fleeting agreements with the FSLN only as needed. The government’s two main agreements with the FSLN—accepting contra demobilization and the EPS' own plan for reduction—were thus fulfilled, but at the expense of other political commitments that implied recognizing the political framework imposed by the Constitution and laws passed during the Sandinista government.
Far from being a product of confusion, then, the Chamorro government’s contradictory actions obey a strategy intended to weaken the opposition's ability to define positions with which to confront it. The goals of this strategy are:
* To consolidate its control of the state apparatus through intimidation of the Sandinista bureaucracy, the judiciary and the legislature.
* To generate divisions within the FSLN in a time of defining positions for the short and long term and of pointed internal debate about the causes of its election defeat.
* To capitalize politically on contra demobilization in order to reduce Sandinista power in the armed forces.
* To safeguard the “moderate” and “flexible” image of the Las Palmas group, allowing the vengeful to congregate in the UNO Political Council, the Managua mayor’s office and some opposition radio stations.
* To protect the President’s image as the one who reconciles the contradictions both internal to her government and with the FSLN and the contras.
* To hide the conflict of interests coming from the new opportunities for enrichment presented by UNO control of the state apparatus.
* To attribute responsibility for the economic deterioration to the FSLN, accusing it of implementing a broad, premeditated plan to boycott agriculture activity by promoting peasant land takeovers and unleashing propaganda campaigns against the “return” of lands and against the aforementioned conflicts of interest.
Consolidating controlThe Las Palmas group was prepared to pay dearly for executive control. Directed by Minister of the Presidency Antonio Lacayo, the executive branch aimed to dominate the state to the point of creating serious conflicts not only with the Godoy faction but also between the different branches of government, trimming away authority from the legislative, judicial and electoral branches. Perhaps pushed by the desire to avoid negotiating with the Godoy bloc in the National Assembly, the executive opened debatable legal proceedings outside of its authority.
The declaration of war took the form of Decree 190, called “the Law of the Creation of Ministries,” which, in the opinion of both FSLN and UNO lawyers, violates the Constitution and the powers attributed to the three other branches of government. In it the executive:
* Passed the Public Registry from the Court to the Ministry of Government, a power that only the legislature constitutionally has;
* Transferred the power of documenting citizens, which corresponded to the Supreme Electoral Council, and territorial demarcation, which corresponded to the legislature, to the Ministry of Government. It attributed all powers not explicitly included under the judicial, electoral and legislative branches to the Ministry of Government;
* Conceded the power to confer graduate degrees to the Ministry of Education and to interpret university electoral legislation to the Ministry of Labor, powers constitutionally under the respective jurisdiction of the universities and the courts (both bastions of Sandinismo).
Political contradictionsThis political onslaught has led to even greater criticism of the government from all sides, unlikely alliances and increasing contradictions between forces within the UNO coalition.
When the executive's proposal to enlarge the Supreme Court to include new rightwing magistrates was questioned in the National Assembly— by both the Sandinistas and the Godoy bloc—the executive announced a comprehensive review of the judiciary and cut its budget by 60%. Given this situation, the FSLN called on the Godoy bloc to close ranks against what it called de facto government disrespect for both civil society and UNO representatives in the National Assembly.
With US support, the group of business ideologues congregated around COSEP and excluded from Cabinet positions has maintained a public position critical of the new government. Their particular target is Minister of the Presidency Antonio Lacayo, whom they accuse of governing in collusion with Humberto Ortega.
The recalcitrant political wing represented in various state and municipal entities, principally in Managua, continues to cluster around the UNO Political Council. Mayor Amoldo Alemán, former organizer of the Somocista Liberal Youth, is spearheading the plan for revenge against the Sandinistas. He is questioning the appropriation of goods, threatening to turn off the gas to the eternal flame in the monument to Carlos Fonseca, substituting the word FIN (end) for FSLN on Mosastepe peak (seen from throughout Managua), accusing the Sandinistas of embezzlement, evicting families from lands granted by the former government and even threatening to knock down the walls around Daniel Ortega's house (see “Nicaragua Briefs”). The President herself had to intervene formally to prohibit any state entity from taking action on housing awarded by the Sandinista government. She personally called on the mayor to end his campaign against Ortega’s wall.
News spread within the Cabinet about power struggles over economic policy, including foreign aid. The ministers of economy and finances and the secretary of planning and budget saw their functions dwindle because Central Bank president Francisco Mayorga gathered the best technicians in the country in one single institution.
On the Atlantic Coast, elected regional representatives of UNO like Alvin Guthrie in Bluefields, as well as Yatama leader Stedman Fagoth in Puerto Cabezas, both old antagonists of the FSLN, agreed with FSLN representatives in denouncing the central government's creation of the Atlantic Coast Development Institute, headed by Brooklyn Rivera. According to coast residents, the President proceeded unconstitutionally by not recognizing the election results on the Coast and consulting the newly elected Regional Autonomous Councils, thus violating the Autonomy Statute.
The government's judgment that the health sector should be principally the responsibility of aid agencies caused stupefaction in diplomatic circles. This meant that charity, and not the central budget, should deal with the grave situation in the health system given the scarcity of medicines in health centers and hospitals—a situation recently aggravated by epidemics of malaria, measles, dengue and whooping cough.
Economic needs and conflictsThe aid packages recently donated by the US, and to a lesser degree Europe (Japan is thus far absent), open the possibility of medium-term economic stability. Sandinista economists admit that when the aid actually arrives, inflation could be reduced to 5% a month if the government maintains sufficient cash reserves to back its monetary stabilization policy.
The government’s originally broad economic program, however, has been reduced to monetary stabilization and the stimulation of agroexports, creating uncertainty among sectors not tied to the large agrarian bourgeoisie. Details on the industrial sector and tax programs, not to mention the social components, are missing.
The success of the monetary plan depends on resolving the political and social contradictions. Tensions between workers and the government’s economic measures, almost daily devaluations and clear indications of administrative inadequacy and internal discrepancies do not bode well for this stability. The growing US impatience raises new questions for a government desperate for stability but cornered by both popular demands and those of the social and economic counterrevolution.
Push for privatizationThe battle over the future of state properties and the process of their privatization is the most decisive issue right now, with serious consequences for the country's future. The Area of People's Property (APP), as state properties have been called, concentrates some 400 enterprises comprising approximately 40% of the GNP in important sectors of the economy. The APP is the essence of the struggle between a bourgeois capitalist project and the intent of the popular forces to defend their basic gains of the past 10 years. What is at play is not simply a constitutional or ideological precept, but also a base of social power and real politics. The FSLN is committed to defending the social sphere against the US government, two distinct sectors of Nicaraguan capital and its former Somocista rival, which is reappearing on the scene in its economic dimension.
Looking toward the 1996 elections, US strategy consists of wearing the FSLN down and taking it apart. According to the US, its goal is to put a definitive end to the revolutionary alternative in Central America. The first steps would be to reorganize pro-US unions and dismantle the APP to remove the FSLN’s social base, while bolstering sectors of artisans, merchants and others whose sympathy with Sandinismo is minimal.
The US goal of dismantling the APP is summarized in the agreement the UNO government signed with US AID on May 3, which does not give UNO much political or ideological autonomy. Among other things, it obliges the government “to introduce measures in the National Assembly to overturn or reform the decrees and dispositions established by the former government to monopolize, control or reduce economic liberties needed for the normal development of production ... [take] the measures necessary to privatize state enterprises ... and proceed in orderly fashion to the public sale, by auction and preferably in small lots, of idle transport and agricultural equipment found under state control and the actions of small state service enterprises in the areas of tourism and local commerce.”
Soon after the new government’s inauguration, an advance party of old financial capital arrived from Miami, demanding both the return of properties and power and shoring up the ranks of ultra-right sectors like COSEP and the old oligarchy. Staunch enemies of the FSLN, they seek its liquidation, beginning with Sandinista unions, and forcefully advocate the recovery of their confiscated properties. Cuban and Somocista capitalists, concubined in Miami for 10 years and in some cases enriched by money laundering, returned in search of old and new businesses. They rapidly allied with some local politicians and businesspeople but raised mistrust and rivalries with others.
Their first test of trust in the new government was its position on returning their old properties. The document presented at the Rome Donors Conference said that all confiscations and forced expropriations that took place beginning in 1979 would be reviewed. Minister of the Presidency Antonio Lacayo told Somoza's heirs, including the dictator’s son Anastasio Somoza Portocarrero, that they could return if they wished.
Some in the government may be conscious of the political, economic and social price to be paid for the return of sectors that, 10 years absent and full of vengeance, demand the re-imposition of a purged Somocista scheme, with no pretense of reformism or recognition of the new social and organizational realities introduced by the revolution. The Godoyists, for their part, do not totally agree with some of the former groups. As politicians, they are somewhat less recalcitrant or fundamentalist, and more disposed to do battle at the base through their rightwing unions and the gradual positioning of supporters in state entities and mayor's offices, especially Managua.
Privatization is also promoted by “large national capital,” made up of important business people who remained in Nicaragua and competed with the state in certain areas of production. Having lost the battle for Cabinet positions, these businesspeople-politicians were consoled with positions on the new boards of large state enterprises and the national commissions of export products. They are attracted by the possibility of rapidly acquiring equipment from enterprises being dismantled, with all the legal facilities and credits.
By the end of June, the Miami consortium had introduced requests to open financial entities and money exchange bureaus sheltered by the free market and free convertibility promised by the government. Probably directed to them, the Vice Minister of the Presidency announced on June 11 that “those who push for irrational privatization, ideologizing their positions, should realize the severity of this problem and the need for good technical analyses, in order to present recommendations most appropriate to the country.”
Privatization is thus advocated by two principal and not contradictory currents: the ideological one promoted mainly by the US, COSEP and the business exiles, and the one that obeys local economic interests that want immediate gain from enterprises or specific rural properties.
Despite the constitutional protection given to the APP holdings and Sandinista protests through its media and parliamentary bloc, the FSLN as such can do little. Legal protection is not strong enough. The workers themselves must assume the defense of their properties, blocking execution of these plans through strikes and land takeovers. As one worker said, “[The government] can also carry out legal or police action, but in accord with the Constitution we have the right to participate in socioeconomic activities and reserve the right to use any form or method of struggle within civil society.... It is impossible for them to see us as “slaves,” like they saw us before.”
Basing their argument on efficiency considerations, groups of workers proposed that they themselves should be the ones to benefit from privatization. Rural worker union (ATC) leaders pointed out that UNO's argument that state enterprises are inefficient compared to the large private ones is false and gave numbers to prove it. While some APP enterprises have been deficient in profitability and administration, state farms produced over 13 quintals of the highest quality beans per hectare in the last agricultural year, compared to over 8 from private farms; 9 quintals of cotton per hectare versus 7 on private farms and 48 quintals of rice to the private farms' 35. In addition, they asked, what interest would the new owners have in maintaining rural childcare centers? And who would recognize the workers for the fruit of their 10 years of work, or the state for the vast improvements and investments it made in properties that had been abandoned?
The Case of cottonIn the northwestern part of the country, the government decided to dismember vast state areas dedicated to cotton cultivation and give them to large producers and landowners returning from Miami. The workers, having used up all legal recourses and suffering salary and food cuts, resorted to land takeovers.
The issue became sensitive for the FSLN, which sought to avoid the image of an opposition sabotaging economic reactivation and not allowing the new government to govern. So that the truth would prevail, the FSLN did not involve itself in the ATC protests—workers were defending their rights and the usufruct of their labor in the form of vast property improvements from virtual confiscation by “legitimate owners” who in some cases left a lot to be desired as businesspeople.
At the same time, cotton farmers entered into conflict with merchants. They complained that their main problems were the costs of storage and of inputs and spare parts from distributors whose prices, according to the farmers, are much higher than in other countries in the region. While the producers wanted more state intervention to assure fair prices on inputs, the Chamber of Commerce, which backs Godoy and the Political Council, was asking the government to stop playing merchant. Both demanded tax reductions, which put even more pressure on the stabilization plan intended to reduce the fiscal deficit.
The cotton growers complained less about the union strikes and land takeovers than about the government's economic policies, especially the exchange rate variations and credit restrictions, which did not permit them to meet the goal of cultivating 70,000 hectares this year. Small producers affiliated with the pro-Sandinista farmers' union (UNAG) saw a hidden intention in the economic policies of making small-scale cotton production disappear in order to return it to a virtual monopoly of big agroexport growers and their financiers, as in the seventies.
Economic contradictionsThe US aid package and the Rome Conference were expected to be the great panacea, but apart from a sudden and momentary drop in the black market price of the dollar when approval of the $300 million was announced, there was no indication that these funds would bring short-term economic stability (see Economy article for more on the Rome Conference). On the contrary, the government would have to pay the cost of the great expectations it raised in the entire Nicaraguan population, expressed in salary and credit demands.
Producers are demanding credits and low interest rates for planting, and then dollars to enjoy the fruit of their labor in Miami. It is impossible to stop printing unbacked money and thus bring the budget deficit under control. Drastic reductions in public spending, while serving as a weapon to financially starve and then privatize state enterprises and the APP, imply confronting workers from state and private enterprises, who show unusual belligerence after 10 years. Similarly, reducing credits means angering both urban and rural small and medium producers. And what of UNO's promise that there would be no massive worker layoffs? One can only wonder what the government bases its urgent hope for stability on. There is a flagrant contradiction between the US-Mayorga privatization plan and the Transition Protocol.
The US-Mayorga plan does not even contribute to coherence within the bourgeois coalition. In June, contradictions became apparent between business groups interested in controlling state corporation business and the group from Miami whose goods were confiscated. The latter are fighting for total privatization in order to facilitate the recomposition of financial capital centers; they won approval of a law restoring their ability to legally direct their financial movements from Miami.
Small and medium producers and ranchers are concerned about obvious conflicts of interest and the possible return of the unfair competition they experienced under Somoza. The information that circulated between the corporate boards always resulted in benefits to their members' private businesses. There was also no guarantee that the policies recommended by the corporations were not in their exclusive interest.
Some of those same sectors complained at the return of Somocistas, absent for 10 years, whose intent to take back their land affects worker stability and hence agricultural production. The builders’ association, architects, merchants, lawyers and small capitalists in general have expressed concern about the arrival of foreign consultants and consortiums.
Finally, the government still does not convincingly explain how it will stabilize prices, which presupposes typing them to the dollar. It cannot guarantee its ability to maintain the new currency's parity with the dollar by offering free convertibility between the two. Given that the demand for dollars will exceed the supply on the free market, there will still be a black market that stimulates inflation as prices adjust to the dollar’s real cost.
There are strong disagreements over the speed with which to privatize, make adjustments and move the transition process toward free convertibility with the introduction of the new currency. For example, some high-level bureaucrats would prefer to convoke a national debate to determine the future of APP enterprises. They recognize the unions' right to participate in management decisions and the beneficial labor done by more than 2,000 Sandinista technicians, who cannot be easily replaced.
Central American summit—A step backwardsThe five Central American leaders' ideological similarity made it possible to set aside serious consideration of the grave problems of peace and social justice in the region during the June summit meeting in Antigua, Guatemala. Self-verification on issues of democratization, national reconciliation and human rights triumphed, reducing the role that the Sandinista government had always insisted on giving to the United Nations and other international organizations. The Antigua Declaration confirms their view that problems in Central America ended with Daniel Ortega's departure from the Nicaraguan presidency. Now the economy can be prioritized over the solution of pending political problems.
In Antigua, Secretary of State James Baker presented his new aid model, inspired by the one used in Poland and Hungary to promote reforms that give more power to private initiative. Baker said that other Western governments should also be promoters of development “to promote economic reforms in the region not only through the traditional path of AID...” Apart from the special aid packages for Nicaragua and Panama, total US aid to other Central American countries was cut by 20%.
Washington refused to pay the cost but not to demand the benefits: the Coordination Secretariat of a proposed “Group of 24” for Central America should be located in Washington. The conditions for aid—compatible political values—would also be dictated in that capital. President Cerezo's words that Central Americans should participate in the coordination of their own aid programs were not appreciated, especially in Washington.
FSLN—Analysis and RenovationThe government's economic shock policies, the President's unconstitutional decrees (5 of the new government's first 12 decrees did not fulfill constitutional requirements, and none went through the legislature), serious tendencies to initiate an agrarian counter-reform by privatizing state lands and returning them to Somocistas, the policy of confronting state workers and, using the police to confront the workers' movement, apparently took the FSLN by surprise.
The FSLN National Directorate had anticipated more moderate policies, as agreed upon in the Transition Protocol signed between the incoming and outgoing governments on March 27, in which both rejected extremist positions. Preparing for a long democratic struggle, the FSLN prioritized contra demobilization for the first few months after the elections. The end of the war was the necessary precondition for initiating a new stage in Nicaragua.
To strengthen the country's constitutional framework and thus promote a minimal stability, the Sandinistas wanted to avoid socioeconomic conflicts that unnecessarily increased tension in the country. That way, the FSLN could return to power through peaceful means in the next elections, given that the political forces that make up UNO will be worn down—like all parties that come to power in Latin America’s current economic situation. The FSLN also wanted to avoid confrontation that could give the counterrevolution new pretexts for refusing to demobilize, and so it could show those who innocently voted for UNO the new government's economic demagogy in promising improvements for the population within three months.
But this is not what happened. Given the harsh Central Bank measures, the economic demands and combativeness of state employee unions, mostly Sandinistas, put the FSLN in an unforeseen situation. The party did not want a confrontation with the government that would abort its prior political calculations, but neither could it fail to support the just demands being made by those who had worked in the FSLN government for very low salaries. During the first rash of strikes in May, the FSLN’s official newspaper, Barricada, was full of editorials about “concertation.” The party supported the strike while at the same time demanding a dialogue between the warring parties.
When the government abandoned the dialogue and launched new and strong decrees against revolutionary gains in retaliation for the strikes, the FSLN as a party was challenged. Only then, several days after the strikes had begun, did it issue an official communiqué supporting them. What had started as a labor struggle became a political one. The union battle, now supported firmly by the FSLN, increased in intensity. As the state became totally paralyzed, the National Directorate, through its coordinator Daniel Ortega, called for a double dialogue: between the unions and their government counterpart to resolve the labor problems, and between the FSLN and Violeta Chamorro to resolve the political problems addressed in the Transition Protocol. The results of the latter meeting were not made public.
Criticism began to circulate among Sandinista party members and sympathizers. Some saw the FSLN as compromising the combativeness of the grassroots sectors in return for a basic understanding with the pragmatic sector of the UNO government. Wasn't the logic of “national unity” what had led to excessive concessions that resulted in the electoral defeat? Wasn't this the very logic that had prevented economic policies that favored low-income sectors when the Sandinistas were in power? Did the FSLN prefer a dialogue with leaders over putting itself unwaveringly at the head of grassroots demands? Finally, wouldn't a general democratization of the party structures themselves be appropriate, replacing or confirming leaders at different levels of the party, strengthening other democratic mechanisms and reformulating strategy?
These issues are valid and must he debated, but two factors must be taken into account. First, times of defeat are the most propitious for divisions in political parties. The FSLN itself divided in the 1970s after the temporarily successful offensive Somoza launched in response to the attack on the home of José María Castillo in 1974. But the many youth who joined the revolutionary ranks in 1978-79 did not live through that period as party members; only in the 1990 elections did they experience the significance of a strategic defeat and begin to feel its psychological and political effects. Internal dialogue should combine enthusiasm with experience, aware that an eventual division would surely forever close the doors to retaking power and indefinitely postpone the cause of the grassroots sectors.
Second, dialectic—the essence of the revolutionary approach to reality—must be recreated within the current political dynamic, overcoming the temptation to be intransigent in choosing which path to follow. It would be just as wrong to steadfastly favor a “national reconciliation” policy as to defend the exclusive interests of workers and peasants. Sandinismo is the coming together of the nation and poorer classes; it is not exclusively from their clash, but from this dialectic that solutions should be found. The FSLN’s responsibility is to carry out this debate maturely, looking mainly toward the future and trying to prevent this fruitful discussion from opening political spaces to the UNO government in the coming months.
The answer to the internal rumblings was to develop an orientation document to be discussed at all levels of the FSLN membership. Through debate, the party could reach preliminary consensus about the causes of the electoral defeat and goals and tactics for the current political moment and the future. There was a danger of falling into defensive positions, divorced from an FSLN project with its own answers and alternatives. The UNO government's own harsh positions threatening the subsistence of thousands of workers helped give the FSLN answers but also polarized the positions of different Sandinista sectors even more. The FSLN publicly discarded the possibility of co-governing or entering into broad pacts with the government, while not discarding the possibility of reaching tactical agreements with some political groups within UNO.
The FSLN membership requested an in-depth review of the party in order to preserve its coherence and unity. A discussion, already initiated at the base after the electoral defeat, was organized to review the party’s errors and assumptions, organization, leadership and social integration. In a historically unprecedented FSLN Assembly on the weekend of June 16, some 300 leaders and grassroots representatives debated the past, present and future of the party for two days.
New goals were laid out with their respective tasks, beginning with regrouping Sandinista forces and assuring the FSLN’s organic unity to defend revolutionary gains and establish new lines of communication with the masses. The Assembly concluded that the FSLN would hold a party Congress in February 1991 in order to recover this political strength. There, leaders at all levels will be elected. For now the representatives gave current leaders a vote of confidence as a key to maintaining unity. The National Directorate itself is represented on the Preparatory Committee for the Congress but not on the Ethics Commission. The latter was created as an internal political necessity to receive all questioning about possible abuses of authority.
All this responds to the party membership's generalized demand that permanent mechanisms and structures be established to permit the FSLN's renovation and grassroots participation in formulating new policies and programs. Only through democratization can the FSLN’s real unity be preserved. With that unity, it can recover its position of strength and run against the new government as the only popular alternative in 1996.
In the meantime, it is applying a dialectic approach to its relationship to the different power blocs and to its own base. A Sandinista project to reform the National Assembly statutes to limit the powers of the Assembly president won the support of the pro-Chamorro Alfredo César bloc against the extremist Political Council bloc. In addition, a certain understanding developed between the government and urban unions, which are already developing a strategy to oppose the privatization and “financial asphyxiation” of state enterprises. Rather than use the National Assembly or the courts, the workers are, perhaps more effectively, militantly rejecting attempts at being run over and proposing their own alternatives to resolve the crisis.
Unions Take the LeadWhat should not even be questioned within the FSLN is the greater autonomy and initiative that the urban and agricultural workers unions, the peasant movement and other pro-Sandinista unions should have in relation to the party. Furthermore, the dynamic of democratization should also affect the internal workings of those mass organizations.
Greater autonomy is not a “concession” by the FSLN but the expression of reality. The strike launched by the National Employees Union (UNE) in May, like the current July strikes, was a clear, example of this and initiates a new stage. The pro-business unions, which are the counterweight to these popular movements, have a wide margin of autonomy and initiative with respect to the UNO government.
All factions of UNO insist that the FSLN National Directorate is behind the strikes and that they are solely political attempts to economically sabotage the new government. It is curious that the Nicaraguan bourgeoisie is so fond of calling for the separation of state and revolutionary party or of the military and revolutionary party, yet does not realize that there is an increasingly real distinction between the revolutionary party and the grassroots organizations. As FSLN Coordinator Daniel Ortega has often said, grassroots organizations often go, and must go, further ahead in the dialectic between the vanguard party and popular organizations. The action of the vanguard party must be based on this logic, not against it.
And it is from this logic that UNE changed the party's plans by obliging the FSLN to support it. As evidence, as this issue of envío went to press early on during the July strikes, the FSLN issued a communiqué unequivocally defending the strikers' demands and calling on all sectors to support them. The pronouncement opposed the government's attempts to return to Somocismo point by point and backed the just struggle of all the different sectors that have joined the national strike. The party again called for dialogue, but from a more militant position united with the workers.
If the UNO government does not understand this dialectic and sees the pro-Sandinista unions' genuine demands as “orders” emanating vertically from the FSLN party leadership, it will find a “Sandinista plot” in every union struggle. This will lead it to seek political confrontations with the FSLN, which surely will not refuse to do battle. The result will be total polarization and consequent general chaos. In that case, the UNO government will have no possibility of making its economic plan work. Without economic advances, it will lose the weak consensus of the half that elected it. If internal divisions are obvious even in its honeymoon period, chaos will likely lead to a complete rupture in the coalition. For its part, the FSLN will not find the national stability necessary to strengthen the democratic process that could permit its own peaceful return to power in the next elections.