State, Party, Masses: Who Rules?

Against the Current No 7, January-February 1987

Dan La Botz

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN the state, the ruling political party, and the labor unions is extremely important in any society; it may even be the crucial and determining relationship. In examining the unfolding social and political revolution in Nicaragua it should certainly be one of the issues at the center of our attention. By focusing on that relationship, we can examine issues of workers’ democracy and workers’ power.

The question we’re asking here is: what kind of relationship exists and is likely to exist in the future, between the state, the party and the unions in Nicaragua, understanding that the relationship is powerfully affected by the U.S. war against the Nicaraguan people?

The war has tended to militarize Nicaraguan society, and the military is no one’s ideal of socialist democracy. Still we can ask: will the Nicaraguans achieve a kind of democratic socialism where workers hold power through the state, where workers’ parties compete and collaborate within that state, and where the unions really protect workers’ interests in a society where state, party and union are often in tension? Or will the Sandinista party and the Nicaraguan state, following the Russian and Cuban experience, absorb the unions into the party and state? Or will the Nicaraguan government and the Sandinistas come to manipulate the unions through fear and favors as is done in Mexico?

The experience of the Nicaraguan revolution is short, only eight years, and the Sandinistas’ desires and attempts to carry out new programs have been constantly interrupted and distorted by the war, so that much of what exists in Nicaragua exists only as tendency. It will be useful to look at some of the tendencies, even if we will hesitate to draw any definitive conclusions.

At the same time, because of the incomplete and tentative character of the Nicaraguan experience, it is also useful to look at the Nicaraguan situation in the light of other revolutionary experiences. Not because Nicaragua necessarily must repeat the patterns of the past, but because those patterns express the harsh reality of world politics and the kinds of choices with which an isolated revolution in a small and backward country is confronted. History is the laboratory of these other social experiments and the experiences of Russia, Cuba and Mexico may alert us to potential problems in Nicaragua.

A recent article in Termometro, the magazine of FETSALUD, the Nicaraguan health workers’ union, focuses attention on what may be this central problem of the Nicaraguan revolution. The article takes up the issue of the involvement, mobilization, and discipline of the workforce to increase production. The article, “Notas Para el Trabajo Sindical de FETSALUD” in the September, 1985 issue (Number 17) gives a feel for the way the Nicaraguans are dealing with this problem.

The article first exhorts officials to involve the members and the members to be active:

“It is the task of the union to insure that the Workers Assemblies don’t continue to be mere political-cultural events where the worker is considered a passive element, but rather that they be converted into real union assemblies, where the local’s leaders and the Union Executive Board are called upon to give a rigorous accounting; where concrete agreements are reached and can be followed up on; where the goals of the center and the section are known; where workers and locals will be excited about the union so that there will be a real relationship between the political union work and the concrete work activity in such a way that this work can be seen materialized in the active participation of the workers and in their desire to do and to transform.”

The goal of this greater involvement of the workers in the union is explained this way:

“It is our job to achieve, in the end, that the forms of work implemented with the Plan of Efficiency and Austerity may result, as a consequence of their correct application in a change in the attitude of the health workers.

“All political ideological work of the Revolution must be focused on changing the attitude towards work. That is to say, it has to do with labor discipline, for example, not being, as under Somocismo, in capitalist societies, a product of coercion and even repression, but rather a conscious attitude that encourages us to carry out the tasks which are ours with our eyes fixed on the people’s highest longings”.

The article argues that the union should be a ”bulwark of the Revolutionary State” without a “loss of our characteristics as a representation of the working class of the health sector.” This can be accomplished, it argues, ”by deepening the participation of the workers in the management” of the enterprise.(1)

Nicaragua, a small backward country integrated into a world capitalist system undergoing profound changes and vast upheavals, a country under military attack by the most powerful imperial nation, the United States, certainly must improve its productivity if only to keep from falling further behind as a result of war and economic crisis. The workers must work harder and produce more if the revolution is to be fulfilled. The question is, how will that take place?

The measures proposed by the FETSALUD article, and the tone of the article are apparently unobjectionable. In Nicaragua usually workers are convinced, not compelled to make sacrifices, as the tone of the FETSALUD article indicates. Yet there are forces at work on the Nicaraguan revolution, from without and within, creating tendencies which if they should become dominant can lead to a mishandling of this issue of labor productivity, the key issue of the revolution, and could conceivably lead to the degeneration of the revolution.

By far the greatest threat to the progressive resolution of the problems of the Nicaraguan revolution is the political, economic and military attack of the United States. The U.S. war in Nicaragua, and the U.S. embargo are creating conditions under which the people can survive only with the greatest sacrifices. These conditions of deprivation and suffering create the economic and political desperation which can lead any society to turn to bureaucratic measures. Such an outcome is even more likely insofar as the Sandinistas take the bureaucratic Cuban regime as their model.

The key to a progressive resolution to the problem is the self-activity of the working class, workers’ power through workers’ democracy. It is only insofar as the workers in the course of the revolutionary process create their own state-a workers’ state-that the self-sacrifice of the workers can be justified and attained. And the development of a democratic workers’ power presupposes workers’ rights.

Whose State?

The fundamental issue of the character of the revolutionary state in Nicaragua cannot be examined in full in this article. But a few of the issues which bear directly on the issues of workers’ democracy must be touched upon.

The Nicaraguan Revolution of 1979 was an enormously broad-based and popular movement culminating in a national strike and insurrection. However, neither the transitional revolutionary government of 1979-84 nor the current government are based on organs of direct workers’ democracy. The initial government structure, made up of the executive Council of State and the legislative Government Junta of National Reconstruction, was rather more dynamic and popular than the Presidency and National Assembly in the existing  pseudo­parliamentary system.

In any case it is the Directorate of the small Sandinista Party which really makes the decisions, still with the support of the majority of Nicaraguans. There are no organs of direct workers’ democracy such as the neighborhood councils of the Paris Commune or the workers’ councils (soviets) of the Russian Revolution.

The Sandinistas justify the democratic character of their government in terms of “political pluralism” and “popular [or people’s] power,” and they frequently refer to “representation” and “consultation.”

By political pluralism the Sandinistas clearly mean the toleration of rival political parties of both the capitalists and the left. Other revolutionary regimes have been willing to tolerate the existence of opposition parties, though usually Communist governments have either totally eliminated them or reduced them to puppets after a short time. Some regimes-for example Mexico-institutionalized the minoritarian opposition; it is always there, it is never allowed to participate in government.

In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas view none of the other parties in parliament as partners in the process; all are clearly considered rather a nuisance when not an outright danger.

Popular power generally refers to the mass organizations including the Sandinista Defense Committees (CDS), the July 19th Sandinista Youth (JS19), the Nicaraguan Women’s Association (AMNLAE), the labor unions, the military, professional and ethnic associations, and business and farm groups. Many of these organizations were organized by the Sandinistas from above, such as the Sandinista Workers Central (CST). Popular power also refers to the process of town meetings (cabildos abiertos) or governmental reports to the people (cara a la nacion–face the nation). Popular power means workers and peasants and the poor can complain and may be consulted, it does not mean they are in control.

Neither the revolutionary party’s ability to set up mass organizations like the CST, nor its ability to mobilize the masses in its support, should be equated with the democratic control of the masses over the revolutionary party of the state. The ruling parties in Mexico, Cuba and China have created such organizations and mass mobilizations; those holding state power are in a particularly privileged position to do so. When any state organizes fear and favor are always implicit; some join out of conviction, others out of careerism or fear of reprisal.

Both political pluralism and popular power are desirable at present because they allow for diversity of opinion and create political space for various options. They are not, however, comparable to the direct democracy of workers’ councils or the contention and collaboration of multi-party workers’ democracy.

The Party-State

The Sandinistas led the national insurrection which overthrew the Somoza regime. Prior to the triumph in 1979, the Sandinistas were primarily a middle-class leadership pursuing a revolutionary guerilla war. They did not at the time have a strong base or organizations in the working class, although one of the three FSLN tendencies focused on proletarian organizing. Yet today the Sandinistas see themselves as the only party of the working class.

“The Sandinista National Liberation Front is the representative of workers and peasants,” said Jaime Wheelock.(2) [Italics in original] And other Sandinistas have made similar statements on numerous occasions. The Sandinistas are convinced that they, and they alone, know what is best for the workers of Nicaragua, and there is a great danger inherent in that attitude.

The arrogance of the Sandinista Party becomes more dangerous because of the tendency of the party to fuse with the state. For example, there is universal military conscription to the Sandinista People’s Army (EPS). Under the new Constitution the EPS is an ambiguous institution, now to be the state’s army but still closely tied to the Sandinista party. It appears that there is state conscription to the army of one political party. The Sandinista People Militia (MPS) and the Sandinista police, closely tied to the army organizationally, also have that ambiguous party-state character.

The Sandinistas and the Workers

The Sandinistas have attempted to restrain workers’ activity from below which has the possibility of generating independent power, while organizing and channeling the labor organizations from above. ‘The Sandinistas had managed to rein in the militants who had been responsible for factory and farm seizures in the initial years of the Revolution.”(3)

In the early years the Sandinistas used their police and army against workers’ parties and unions. “In January 1980, for example, the leaders of Frente Obrero were arrested. In February, in the aftermath of the Fabritex strike, it was the turn of several dozen militants of the CAUS and Nicaraguan Communist Party (PCN). And on 5 March a number of offices belonging to these organizations were ransacked at the end of an anti-CIA demonstration that was originally supposed to march to the U.S. Embassy.”(4)

Until 1981 the Sandinistas attempted to unite all labor unions into one central which they would control. However, both radical and conservative unions rejected such control. In 1981 the Coordinadora Sindical de Nicaragua was founded. The Sandinistas are still dominant in this coordinadora and use it to channel the labor movement in the directions they think best.

There was a state of emergency in Nicaragua including a ban on strikes from March 1982 until July 1984. The state of emergency was lifted on August 6, 1984 and just two weeks later the 1,000 workers at the state-owned Victoria brewery went on strike for a wage increase of p.t least fifty percent.(5) It was part of a cluster of strikes in that period that included a strike at the San Antonio refinery and another among construction workers in Leon.

The Sandinistas were quick to blame strikes on foreign influence. Referring to that group of strikes one of their spokesmen said, “Here strikes have been carried out under pressure from leaders directly linked to imperialist strategy.”(6) The government did not use its police power to stop the strikes. It made some concessions and persuaded workers to resume work. However the method of attributing virtually all strikes to counterrevolutionary motives is a dangerous one, and one intimidating to the workers and their unions.

Beyond that, however, the Sandinistas oppose strikes in principle. A resolution passed at the Third National Assembly of Unions held in Managua on September 8 and 9, 1984 declared: ‘The strike is a form of struggle utilized by the workers against their class enemy, the capitalist exploiter. This form of struggle has no place in Nicaragua, because power is in the hands of the workers.”(7)

There are problems with this: 1) the Sandinista party-state is not based on organizations of workers’ power; 2) employers are still often capitalists; 3) even if the state were a workers’ state, it might through error or excess pursue policies inimical to the interests of some or all workers, and workers might still need the right to strike. Socialism, after all, isn’t magic.

But most important, the working class develops its self-confidence, its organizations, its combativity, and its political consciousness through the class struggle.

The loss of any democratic rights–whether of speech and the press, or assembly and protest–inhibits the development of those qualities. However, this is particularly true of the loss of the right to strike which is the characteristic form of struggle of the working class everywhere.

The national insurrection and the war against imperialism being fought today are experiences through which the working class has no doubt developed. But they are forms of national struggle involving all social classes. The Sandinistas have inhibited the workers’ struggle so that its specific class interests did not become clear, and have channeled the workers’ struggle into the Sandinistas’ multi-class national struggle. When workers in such a situation give up the right to strike they give up the possibility through struggle of becoming, as a class, fit to rule.

The Bureaucratic Tendency

There exists then the tendency in Nicaragua towards the fusion of the Sandinista party, the Sandinista army and the Nicaraguan state, and towards the incorporation of the labor unions into that party-army-state.

The state, fearful of strikes and other forms of workers’ protest, attempts to use the unions to control the workers. The state may thereby raise the level of production for reasons that are clear enough, but it also inhibits the working class from developing in the only way it can, through the class struggle. (The struggle of the Nicaraguan people against U.S. imperialism is not exactly the same as the struggle of the Nicaraguan workers against their class enemies and for the leadership role among other classes.)

Clearly there are also other tendencies at work in Nicaragua, or the creation of a political-economic monolith would already have taken place. There are the leftist competitors like the Socialist Party of Nicaragua and the Communist Party of Nicaragua and the People’s Action Movement, all of which are thorough-going Stalinist, pro-Russian (PSN and PCN) or pro-Albanian (MAP), each of which would like to see a one-party state with themselves in power. Nonetheless their independent parties and labor unions are important in maintaining diversity of opinion and alternative programs before the working class.

There is also the existence of the Christian base communities which have an independent existence. And there are the pro-capitalist parties which, however reactionary their views, contribute to maintaining the fluidity of the situation.

Influence of Cuba & the USSR

The bureaucratic tendencies within the Nicaraguan Revolution are strengthened by the influence of Cuba and the Soviet Union, bureaucratic collectivist states in which the one-party state has eliminated any real labor unions or other workers’ organizations and uses the so-called “labor unions” merely to increase production for the ruling bureaucratic class.

The influence of Cuba and the Soviet Union is exerted in several different ways. First: “Close relations have long existed between the Cuban Communist Party and the FSLN, Cuba representing for the Sandinistas what Lenin’s Soviet Republic represented for communists of the twenties.” “It was a revolutionary, Castroist organization, then, that took power in Managua on 19 July 1979.”(8)

Second: many Nicaraguan administrators, technicians, professionals and soldiers are being trained in Cuba or in Eastern European, Communist states. Third: the Sandinistas have established party-to-party relations with the Communist parties of Cuba, the Soviet Union and other Eastern European states. ” … prior to the May 1982 Moscow visit, the FSLN affiliated its mass youth, women’s and labor organizations with their respective Soviet-sponsored international bodies ….There can be little doubt that the FSLN party saw itself as ‘fraternally’ linked to the CPSU, as well as to its Cuban counterpart.”(9)

Fourth: Cubans have been involved in the Nicaraguan Ministry of the Interior, a particularly ominous sign.(10) Finally: of course, faced with the U.S. embargo, Nicaragua has increasingly turned toward the Soviet bloc and tends to become largely dependent upon it (while still receiving aid and support from many other sources). Given these ties it is not surprising that the Sandinistas do not defend the right of self-determination for the people of Afghanistan, nor do they oppose the suppression of the Solidarnosc workers’ movement by the Polish police state.

Historic Experience: Russia

Though their situation was different in many ways, the Russian revolutionaries of 1917 faced some similar problems. Russia was an important country, really a vast empire, not a small nation. While backward, it had enormous factories, employing tens of thousands of workers in huge industrial areas in major cities. Nicaragua today has a much weaker economy than Russia in 1917, with few manufacturing workers and all of them in much smaller workplaces.

The Russian revolutionaries came out of a workers’ movement and headed a mass workers’ party, and thus had ties to the working class fundamentally different from largely middle-class leaders of a guerilla army. And their inspiration was the internationalist and democratic revolutionary workers’ movement of that time, not the dictatorship of Fidel Castro. Nonetheless many of the problems they faced were similar.

A central question was how to mobilize the population to overcome the economic destruction of revolution, civil war, foreign invasion and economic collapse in the period from 1918 to the mid-1920s.

In that difficult and tumultuous period between 1918 and 1920 there were many conflicts between the Soviet state, various government agencies and the unions. The Bolshevik Party attempted to deal with the problems by using fractions to subordinate the unions to the party. ‘The more confused their mutual relations, the more strongly did the Communist Party insist on its own supreme control over those bodies. This was exercised through the system of party cells inside the trade unions,” writes Isaac Deutscher.

As he notes, it was an old idea, and the Bolsheviks had used party fractions in the unions since long before the war began. “What was new was the elaborate detail of the scheme calculated to secure for the party a leading role in every organization.” The party trade unionists were required to form fractions in the unions subordinate to the party leadership, with fraction bureaus if they were large fractions. They were to discuss all trade union issues in advance and were required to vote unanimously on them at union meetings. The party could appoint any party member to any trade union fraction, even though the party member was not a member of the trade union. And the party could order its members to resign from trade union office.(11)

The Bolsheviks, faced with the desperate situation, created the regime called “War Communism” and turned toward the militarization of labor and the absorption of the unions into the state. Leon Trotsky went so far as to call for the militarization of the trade unions in a speech to the 9th Bolshevik Party Congress in March 1920:

“Militarization is unthinkable without the militarization of the trade unions as such, without the establishment of a regime in which every worker feels himself a soldier of labor, who cannot dispose of himself freely; if the order is given to transfer him, he must carry it out; if he does not carry it out, he will be a deserter who is punished. Who looks after this? The trade union. It creates the new regime. This is the militarization of the working class.”(12)

Vladimir Lenin told a founding congress of the all- Russian mineworkers’ union only somewhat less stridently that “we must create by means of the trade unions such comradely discipline as we had in the Red Army.”(13) As historian E.H. Carr wrote, in retrospect these read “like a theoretical justification for a harsh necessity it had been impossible to avoid.”(14)

Later, when Trotsky in an attempt to reorganize the railroads also tried to reorganize the railroad workers’ union, he provoked a great debate on the relationship between state and union. The debate took place at the 10th Bolshevik Party Congress on March 8, 1921.

While there were originally many different positions on the issue, by the time of the congress there were three. Trotsky called for the complete subordination of the unions to the state. The Workers’ Opposition of Schlyapnikov and Kollontai called for the complete independence of the unions and called upon them to organize production. Lenin pragmatically called for a close relationship between state and unions but recognized the relative autonomy of the unions.

The Trotsky-Bukharin program called for the “transformation of the trade unions into production unions, not only in name, but in substance and method of work.” And, they argued, this would entail “the transformation of the unions into the apparatuses of the workers’ state.”

The majority of the delegates voted for Lenin’s position which argued that “the rapid ‘statization’ of the trade unions would be a serious mistake.”(15) For the moment, the attempt to bring about the integration of the unions into the state by party decree was dropped. The New Economic Policy which went into effect shortly thereafter allowed a loosening up in various areas of the society, including the unions.

However, the process of bureaucratization and statization went on gradually and de facto throughout the early 1920s. So that as Carr writes:

“In this triumphal progress towards the building of socialism, party, government, managers and trade unions marched hand in hand. Yet such an alliance, whatever the intentions and whatever the professions, could not fail to widen and deepen the gulf between trade union leaders responsible for giving effect to this policy and the inarticulate masses of workers who were the instrument of its application. The virtual abandonment of the strike weapon, the waning interest of the trade unions in social insurance and in the protection of labor were all symptomatic of this new attitude. The trade unions were no longer organizations representative of the special interests of the working class (since no such special interests were recognized}, but organized for the performance of certain specific functions within a governmental machine which identified the interests of the working class with those of the community as a whole.”(16)

By the time Stalin consolidated his power in the late 1920s, the unions, having utterly ceased to exist as defenders of the workers, and having become part of the totalitarian machine, simply exploited the workers. By the late 1920s strikes-considered legally to be counter­ revolutionary sabotage-could result in a death sentence.(17)

Of the 1930s, Moshe Lewin writes: “It was during those years that the government and managers acquired the characteristically Soviet habit of shuffling the labor force around like cattle. With their eyes fixed only on their targets they tended to neglect elementary human needs of workers.”(18) In the battle for labor discipline and production, particularly with the newly-urbanized and industrialized workers from the countryside, “the Soviet government played no ‘humanistic’ games  Very soon, methods such as denial of ration cards, eviction from lodgings, and even penal sentences for undisciplined workers were decreed.”(19)

Historic Experience: Cuba

Fidel Castro’s guerilla movement took power in 1959, and the labor movement had played virtually no role in the revolution. The new revolutionary government, with broad popular support, was in a position to dictate to the labor movement, and its dictates were largely accepted. The result, however, was the subjugation of the unions to the one-party state.

The National Council meeting of the Workers Confederation of Cuba (CTC) on September 12 and 13, 1959, “agreed to suspend strikes and other actions that could affect the march of the revolutionary process ….”(20) At its First National Congress on November 18-22, the CTC agreed “to renounce strikes and other actions that could affect production, support the Industrial Development Plan of the government and ask all workers to contribute 4 percent of their salaries to that development plan.”(21)

In 1961 the Ministry of Labor rewrote the labor law, creating one union local in each workplace. Those unions were now controlled by the state. “Socialist emulation” and hero workers were introduced in 1961. As Sam Farber writes, “Now the trade unions had become not the defense organizations of the workers but state organizations, the main purpose of which was to help organize and stimulate higher production.”(22)

Castro’s policy of preventing strikes from the beginning also prevented the workers from developing the consciousness and combativity which might have allowed them to become an independent and eventually a leading force in the revolutionary process.

Historic Experience: Mexico

In Mexico, too, the state came to dominate the labor movement in the course of a revolution, though it was a very different sort of revolution giving rise to a very different sort of society than that which came to exist in the Soviet Union or Communist China.

In 1915, after five years of tumultuous peasant revolution, General Alvaro Obregon, allied at the time with Venustiano Carranza, recognized the need for controlling the cities in order to win and end the revolution. To control the cities it would be necessary to make an alliance with the urban working class, so Obregon applied to the Casa Obrero Mundial, the anarcho-syndicalist labor central, to provide “Red Battalions” in exchange for the right to organize unions throughout the country.

The unions split, but the majority supported Obregon, providing thousands of working-class troops to fight against Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata’s peasant revolutionaries. And the Carranza government recognized the workers’ rights to organize.

Later when Obregon made his own bid for power in 1919, he did so with the support of the newly-formed labor union, the CROM (The Mexican Workers’ Regional Confederation) and its political party, the Partido Laborista, both of which were controlled by Obregon’s ally, Luis Morones. When Obregon came to power, Morones held various high positions in government, including Minister of Industry, Commerce and Labor. The union was integrated into the state.

While it was impossible in the 1920s to prevent strikes in Mexico, Obregon’s government used the CROM to control the labor movement and channel its activities. The government and the CROM, which controlled the labor courts, persecuted the anarchist, Communist and Catholic labor unions. The CROM officials used their union offices to extort money from the private employers and from their own members. And the labor bureaucrats of the CROM became important in the government, holding seats in the legislature.

By the late 1920s the CROM had become a gangster union and during the economic and political crisis of the depression it fell apart. The nationalist and populist political leader, President Lazaro Cardenas, allied himself with one of the former leaders of the CROM, Vincente Lombardo Toledano, who organized a new pro-government union, the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM).

Cardenas supported the Mexican petroleum workers when they struck against the British and American oil companies, Royal Dutch Shell and Standard Oil, and nationalized the oil industries when the companies refused to deal with the unions. But when the workers continued to fight for their wages, benefits and conditions against their new employer, the Mexican government, he used the army to break the strike, arguing that the workers were under the influence of dangerous foreign influences. In the late 40s Cardenas’ successors used the army to impose pro-government leaders on the big industrial unions and promote the CTM in its battles with other rival unions.


Much of the time the Sandinista government and the various labor unions resolve problems amicably, even when workers engage in job actions or strikes. But the Sandinistas show elements of both the Cuban and the Mexican approach in the handling of labor conflicts.

The Cuban approach, the attempt to absorb the workers into official unions and the unions into the one-party state was attempted in the early 1980s, and was dropped when it produced too many conflicts with the rival labor union centrals and their respective political parties, and perhaps also because of criticism from liberal and social-democratic regimes supporting the Sandinistas at that time.

The Mexican approach, the support of a government-supported union over its rivals, has been used ever since. When other unions lead strikes their leaders may be jailed, while the Sandinistas’ CST union insures there are no strikes or other disruptive activities in the public or capitalist sectors. Though it must be stated that the Sandinistas have never practiced the kind of mass repression and occasional assassination that characterized the Mexican government throughout its history, still the political method is very similar.

There is a great danger inherent in the tendency toward the state sponsorship of a union, whether in the Cuban or the Mexican style. Both approaches are inimical to a democratic socialism. Even in a workers’ revolution like that which took place in Russia in 1917, the tendency to integrate unions into the state had reactionary consequences. So much the worse in revolutions dominated by Mexican Bonapartes or Cuban bureaucrats.

At present the danger for the workers’ movement in Nicaragua is not so much that strikes will be broken and unions crushed by a heavy-handed bureaucracy–though that may happen from time to time in the future as it has in the past–but rather that the Sandinistas, the factory managers, the private employers and the union officials, as they pursue the goal of increased production, gradually turn the unions into organizations that only exist to raise productivity.

The first responsibility of those of us in the United States is to fight against U.S. imperialism and its attempt to destroy the Nicaraguan Revolution through its murderous war and embargo. The U.S. contra war not only takes the lives of innocent children, teachers, health workers, and Sandinista soldiers, but also threatens to drive the Nicaraguan people into the arms of Cuba and the Soviet Union and the reactionary embrace of bureaucratic Communism. We must exert all our efforts in opposing U.S. intervention in Nicaragua and other parts of Central America.

At the same time we have a responsibility as socialists to point out to the Nicaraguans and to our comrades everywhere the dangers of denying workers their democratic rights, not only the rights to freedom of speech and the press and assembly, but also the right to exercise their power through strikes (a right they may choose not to exercise), and the right to independent organizations separate from the ruling party and the state.

As socialists we know the working class is the only group that can liberate humanity, the only class that can usher in socialism. So we must support the working class of Nicaragua, even when it may come into conflict with the Sandinistas. In doing so we strengthen the workers’ movement everywhere.


  1. Termometro, Number 17, September 1986.
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  2. Nicaragua: The Sandinista People’s Revolution: Speeches by Sandinista Leaders, (Pathfinder Press, New York, 1985), 274.
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  3. Thomas W. Walker, ed., Nicaragua: The First Five Years, (Praeger, New York, 1985), Luis Hector Serra, ‘The Grass Roots Organizations,” 66.
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  4. Henri Weber, Nicaragua: The Sandinista Revolution, (Verso, London, 1983), 107. Also see 92 and 104.
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  5. Central American Historical Institute, Update, Vol. 3, No. 30, September 6, 1984.
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  6. Central American Historical Institute, Envio, May 1984.
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  7. Nicaragua Speeches, 346.
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  8. Weber, op. cit., 20-21 and 59-60.
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  9. Walker, op. cit., Theodore Schwab & Harold Sims, “Relations With the Communist States,” 455-56. See also 460 regarding Communist help in creating state-controlled unions.
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  10. Ibid.,
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  11. Isaac Deutscher, Soviet Trade Unions: Their Place in Soviet Labour Policy, (Oxford University Press, New York, 1950), 31-32.
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  12. E.H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1923 Vol. II, (Penguin, Baltimore, 1966), 214-15.
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  13. Ibid., 216.
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  14. Ibid., 217.
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  15. Ibid., 226-27.
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  16. E.H. Carr, Socialism in One Country 1924-26 Vol. I, (Penguin, Baltimore, 1970), 441.
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  17. Tony Cliff, State Capitalism in Russia, (Pluto Press, London, 1974), 26.
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  18. Moshe Lewin, The Making of the Soviet System, (Pantheon, New York, 1985), 220.
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  19. Ibid.
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  20. Pablo Gonzalez Casanova, Historia def Movimiento Obrero en America Latina, Vol. I, (Siglo Veintiuno Editores, Mex, D.F. 1984), Aleida Plasencia Moro, “Historia del Movimiento Obrero En Cuba,” 166.
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  21. Ibid., 167. He is a pro-Castro writer who writes frankly that the unions tried to achieve “monolithic unity.”
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  22. Samuel Farber, Revolution and Reaction in Cuba, 1933 to 1960, (Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, Connecticut, 1976), 222.
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January-February 1986, ATC 7

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