Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 122 | Septiembre 1991



The Last Word

Envío team

We reprint below the "last words" from the FSLN National Congress, that is, condensed extracts of the closing speeches by General Humberto Ortega, head of the Sandinista Army, FMLN Comandante Joaquin Villalobos, and FSLN General Secretary Daniel Ortega.

General Humberto Ortega

In 1969, although very young, I was named to be on the first National Directorate. At that time, we had other political and military methods, other values about how to fight for the revolutionary cause. Today I'm called on to assume responsibilities that separate me from party leadership, but that doesn't make our tasks less responsible or revolutionary. We are in a different time, one of profound world changes that take us to the year 2000 in a very complex situation. All theories left, center and right, all this century's schemes and models are today subject to review to find what's best for our peoples.

When I joined the FSLN leadership 22 years ago, we were extremely idealistic; it wasn't hard to be willing to give one's life. It's different today where, to defend these same ideals, some revolutionaries like us have been called traitors by others struggling for the same cause. It's harder to be revolutionary when we're asked to sit down with those we fought against, even shot at, when the manuals that formed us early on—Marxist manuals that we respected greatly—are now subjected to a real dynamic in practice, obliging us to restudy them and not be guided by them mechanically, schematically. It requires firmer conviction to say internally and publicly that one's systems have been insufficient to resolve humanity's problems than it did to risk one's life to defend sovereignty against aggression.

This challenge requires unity. If the people are clamoring for [Latin American] integration to face the economic challenge [of the unjust international order], to recover from our country's difficult economic situation, the duty of all Nicaraguan revolutionaries and progressive forces is to unite firmly in this historic moment. And we can't speak of unity in Nicaragua without understanding—responsibly and with revolutionary spirit—the concept of national reconciliation. We can't act in old doctrinaire ways; we have to act creatively, applying the correct and appropriate methods for each moment, without abandoning our cause.

National reconciliation is a vital task for all Nicaraguans. I remember that at the beginning of our struggle we spoke of the dictatorship of the proletariat, that it would smash another social class; but this can't be. It's to propose the same thing the vindictive reactionaries in Nicaragua propose to do to Sandinistas; those who want to destroy our true democratic elements—the army, the Constitution. But this isn't possible, and that's why they've isolated themselves. At this time, it's a question of harmonizing through profound national reconciliation, generating enough basic political stability so we can overcome the material economic crisis, particularly for the humble and working classes. Without it there can be no economic recovery.

Some think it's bad for the Sandinistas if this government makes significant advances against inflation, getting foreign aid and applying the economic plan—that they'll get electoral points. But this has to be debated, because if it were true, we'd be permanently on strike about any old thing, like the ultra-left forces who use the difficulties our people are suffering to make demands that a responsible revolutionary union would never make, knowing it's not possible to win them.

Nicaragua's experience will be able to offer substantial contributions to learning from the efforts of revolutionaries, of socialists who came to power and experimented, using the best from other western models, to achieve economic development with social justice and a greater historic sense for our people. I have the firm conviction that in the coming years the ideals that motivated us—to benefit our people and the whole Nicaraguan nation—will become reality.

FMLN Comandante Joaquin Villalobos

There are those who've said we're living in a bad period for revolutions. If we analyze the revolutionary changes in light of past schemes, full of errors and dogmas, perhaps this makes sense. We're at a time of exceptional changes in the world, in all orders. We're witnessing the end of rigid ideas. To judge this historic stage one must think far beyond the next few years. Today more than ever, breaking with schemes, being innovative and revolutionizing our thinking is the basis on which our humanist and noble ideas of socialism and revolution can continue forward.

In the name of our Frente, we want to recognize the contributions our brother and sister Nicaraguans have made to new revolutionary thinking. You built a strategy to defeat a dictatorship, brilliantly combining the revolutionary energies of the people and the progressive currents of the world. You broke schemes to initiate the building of an open revolutionary model. It's obvious that errors have been made; the only ones who don't make mistakes are those who don't do anything.

The Sandinista revolution made clear that government and power are not the same thing. For years we've been told that democracy means all can aspire to government, but the history of our America is full of electoral frauds, coups and governments that cannot govern, democratic leaders who've been worn out, revolutionary or democratic parties that have been destroyed trying to assume government but without power, faced with oligarchies and militaries that do have power but not always the government.

In Nicaragua, the revolution established popular economic power, revolutionary ideological power and the basis for a neutral police and army. Nicaragua is advancing seriously and truthfully toward a truly neutral army that respects civil society and submits to it, doesn't carry out coups against legitimately constituted governments of any ideological stripe and doesn't repress its people. For all these reasons, concertation, reconciliation and the designing of a broad national project are possible. The history of Eastern Europe left perfectly clear that absolute power is an error and that people do not live by bread alone. And, as our beloved and remembered Dr. Guillermo Manuel Ungo taught us, there is no democracy without revolution and no revolution without democracy.

You've also taught us about the creation of a new kind of party. How many have been astonished to see the debate and the evident contradictions at the center of the Sandinista Front? There were even those who predicted that it would divide. But here the dogmatic understanding of unity and the taboo that contradictions in revolutionary parties are bad are ending. Contradiction is the mother of development, and unity the key to strength and power. Democracy begins at home, and we on the left must overcome all involuntary vestiges of Stalinism that our revolutionary movements at times have.

How much damage the dogmatic understanding of the "vanguard" concept has caused revolutionaries—to feel oneself the predestined redeemers of the people based on theory and not reality, on the belief that one possesses total truth. How much this religious vision of struggle impeded the unity of the revolutionary movements themselves and the indispensable alliances with other forces. In overcoming all of this, the Sandinista Front is a decisive stanchion of the new Left and the rejuvenating current of revolutionary thinking in America.

For years, the United States maintained military dictatorships all over Latin America in the name of democracy. The existence of a revolutionary Cuba, of a Sandinista Nicaragua, of an invincible FMLN, of revolutionary armed struggle and the huge social struggles throughout America forced vast spaces to be opened for civil power and democracies almost everywhere in the continent. The challenge of constructing true democracies as the means for achieving social justice and resolving the serious problem of misery is on the agenda. Our task is to advance in democracy to socialism, to demonstrate that social property is efficient and that it develops and empowers the nation and stabilizes it.

The United States has pledged enormous resources and political support to militarily defeat the FMLN and reform the armed forces and has failed in both. FMLN combatants and broad sectors of Salvadoran society will never accept being sacrificed to a new promise of democratic experimentation by the most murderous, anti-civil, anti-democratic and anti-national army in Latin America. The FMLN's arms are the historic security of the people and society. Thus we FMLN combatants will never give up our arms; we will never permit the nation's security to be assumed by an army that kills priests, nuns and bishops.

Soon there will be a democratic Salvador in peace, in which a strong and organized FMLN will be there with other forces alongside it to advance in the task of economic and social justice for our people.

Thank you, indestructible Sandinista brothers and sisters, for your solidarity. Thank you for never failing us.

FSLN General Secretary Daniel Ortega

We are closing the first FSLN Congress, an extraordinary effort full of tensions but also of hope. We held it in a new historic stage, finding ourselves in the opposition. But we're not the opposition of the 60s, when we had to carry guns against the Somoza dictatorship; rather of the 90s, with the force of the profound transformations carried out over all these years, the Constitution, a new democratic army and police with popular roots.

For long months we have debated; over these days the Statutes, Program and multiple resolutions have been approved, and FSLN national authorities have been elected. This is all very good; it expresses coherence, consistency and unity in the midst of contradictions. But we can't relax, because the road to heaven is paved with good intentions, and if they aren't converted into daily practice they will take us to hell instead.

We will be members of the Sandinista Assembly or of the National Directorate, or even general secretary of the Directorate; but first of all we will be FSLN militants, which obliges us every day to be with the workers, the poor, the unemployed, the peasants, the hungry—all those suffering the effects of this country's economic crisis.

This whole process is a new experience for Sandinistas and enriches our history; but it is also a bit traumatic, because it means moving to a new form of organization. During the debates, the proposals and the voting, we said that no one here should feel a winner or others losers, but that we have to nourish the conviction that the winner is the FSLN, the revolution.

The elections have brought dozens of new compañeros into the Sandinista Assembly, but only by leaving out dozens of old ones who gave themselves fully to the struggle against the Somoza dictatorship and imperialist aggression. We can't ever fall into the trap of a destructive electoral practice; it must always have a constructive spirit, so that no one resents the results.

Two points were debated on the first day of the Congress, one of which had to do with how to elect the National Directorate. We believe we have to move to individual voting for the National Directorate and, as general secretary, I want to make a commitment to you today that we'll work so that in the next election the Directorate will also be elected by direct, secret and individual vote. We explained that, given the political moment, given the very fact that we're introducing this democratic process into the FSLN in this new stage, we didn't want to risk making too many modifications in the leadership—not so we stay there, but to continue deepening the FSLN's democratic process.

The other theme debated a lot had to do with women [on the Directorate]. We don't want it to be interpreted that we Sandinistas are locked into conservative, macho positions. We can't be satisfied with the absence of women on the National Directorate. During this whole agitated period Dora María Téllez, a compañera who deserves all our respect, admiration and affection, was mentioned as a candidate to the Directorate. The problem was the Directorate's role at this time. The historic Directorate is fundamental precisely to guarantee the democratization process within Sandinismo, without this process provoking dispersion. It wasn't a question of whether one compañera enter and not another. With René Núñez, who has been the Secretary of the National Directorate, we're simply formalizing what's already a fact. And Sergio Ramírez has been working closely with the Directorate and is now head of the Sandinista bench [in the National Assembly]. We think this is necessary only to cover this stage, then later open up to more members. Right now, we don't even know how the Directorate will be organized.

In these new conditions, where we must admit that the social movements are acquiring a new profile, more autonomy, we can't confuse the FSLN’s role as a political leadership force with that of the popular and trade union movements; nor can we confuse those two with the role of the Sandinista bench. We have common strategic objectives, but our battlefields are different. We can't think that we can give orders to all these forces as if they were marionettes, that we can tell them when to protest, when to mobilize and when not. Nor should they be asking permission from the FSLN to defend what is legitimate.

We have to understand that the social forces have their own spaces, and a strike in a specific place could happen at any moment. Nobody should blame the strike on the FSLN, because when it happens it's because the workers are right. They want to work, but when they're badly paid or thrown into unemployment they're logically going to protest. You have to be in a worker's skin to understand their rebellion; that's where the social problems are. We would be ill-advised to confuse our own overall political proposals for stability with the reality different sectors of the population are experiencing. If the peasant cooperatives in the countryside that received lands from the revolution are attacked, there's logically going to be immediate tension.

Ever since the revolution triumphed we've clearly defined that we're in favor of stability, and after April 25 we've kept on working for that stability. Logically, we're also in favor of a national project—but what national project? We defend a national project that unites Nicaraguans in moving the country forward and better distributing its wealth, and cannot accept one that seeks stability at the expense of impoverishing the great majority and enriching a minority; that's a masquerade of a national project that it wants to impose on our country and on the government.

We Sandinistas first have to close ranks, then join forces nationally to seek a national consensus that will help the government resist the foreign pressures intent on imposing this other model. We know the positions of the National Assembly members who want to deny revolutionary gains, and we know the positions of the government, which has been working in the concertation to find an answer to the property and privatization issues that will truly enjoy national consensus. We're in favor of that, but we can't lose sight of the enormous pressures being exerted on all the Latin American governments—and Nicaragua is no exception—to impose neoliberal policies that destroy any possibility of a national project that gives even minimum security and dignity to workers.

We're going to continue working for respect of the socioeconomic gains reached in benefit of the vast majority of Nicaraguans, but we can't lose sight of the fact that, even though there is express will on the part of the government, the FSLN, the FNT and other social-economic sectors, there are also very politicized economic groups and dogmatic political groups that resent any kind of understanding with Sandinismo and would prefer to wipe it out. We can't lose sight of the fact that some Somocistas have returned to this country and are aggressively threatening the most humble sectors benefited by the revolution.

So we can't be imagining a reality that doesn't exist yet; we have to assume that, although Nicaragua today offers more and better possibilities to work for stability and peace, the basic conditions for them have not yet been created.

We have to take on new challenges in this new stage. We can't go out into each locality thinking only about winning the next elections, but also about increasing Sandinista presence throughout the country and joining forces with a broad and flexible spirit. When the elections come, fine, we'll be ready; but we're struggling to bring democracy to all Nicaraguans, so that the antagonistic political forces—which don't even want to see us—have the political space that Somocismo never gave them.

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