Jorge Capelán and Stephen Sefton
The 40th anniversary of Nicaragua’s Sandinista overthrow represents victory over Zamoza dictatorship in 1979 and U.S. imperialism today.
For all Nicaragua, and especially the capital of Managua, July 19 of this year, more than ever will see a spectacular festival of revolution, peace and above all popular resistance against United States aggression.
Forty years ago in 1979, a huge majority of Nicaraguans led by the Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN) overthrew the cruelest dictatorship in the Americas, a close ally of the United States. Ever since then the U.S. government has worked to destroy the FSLN. For forty years they have failed miserably, at the cost of enormous suffering for Nicaragua’s people.
When President Daniel Ortega salutes the hundreds of thousands of FSLN supporters today, it will be an unassailable vindication of his own massive political achievement and a truly historic testament to the power of Augusto Sandino’s legacy. All of that would be sufficient to make this national event, in a small country with fewer than seven million people, of tremendous regional significance in Latin America and the Caribbean. But two things make the 40th anniversary of the revolutionary triumph in 1979 even more special and significant.
First, in the current international context, Nicaragua’s unbreakable identification and solidarity with Venezuela and Cuba, supported too by Bolivia, has created a regional bloc based on the Bolivarian vision of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, formidably resilient in every sense. Their socialist policies of economic democratization expose the neoliberal austerity policies of the U.S. and its allies as a deliberate corporate-driven war on the impoverished majority. Likewise, their defense of sovereignty, non-intervention and peaceful resolution of conflicts contrast sharply with the sadism and hypocrisy of U.S. and allied aggression.
In that context, the Sandinista government’s undeniable social, economic and cultural advances, like those of Cuba and Venezuela, effectively dismantle the mystifying neocolonial labyrinth of impoverishment and dependence. Their success, despite unending U.S. aggression, demonstrates that the U.S. has no viable policy for the region, only its abhorrent Monroe Doctrine mission of looting and domination.
Second, July 19 of this year is the first anniversary of the Nicaraguan people’s defeat of the failed U.S. backed coup attempt of 2018 against Presiden Daniel Ortega. That victory over the vicious, hateful Nicaraguan right-wing and their U.S. owners was an overwhelming, categorical affirmation of broad and deep popular loyalty to the revolutionary leadership both of President Ortega and the Sandinista Front for National Liberation.
For two or three weeks in April and May 2018, a majority of people in the country were bemused and unsure what to think of the unprecedented murderous unrest and psychological warfare they experienced. But within two months the reality of the coup attempt became clear and the majority reaction against it was patient, resolute and definitive.
In Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba that strategic grass roots discipline, humanity and determination has developed in response to decades of right-wing opposition abuse, violence, sadism, corruption and deceit. In Nicaragua, the insistence of President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo on dialogue and peaceful resolution of conflict was embodied in the conditional amnesty approved June 8 this year, releasing around 300 opposition activists either sentenced or awaiting trial for very serious crimes, many involving murder, torture and grievous bodily harm. So, July 19th this year will also be a triumphant vindication of the commitment to Peace, Reconciliation and Understanding which gives the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela such strong moral prestige and authority both among their own populations and also in the wider region, for example among Caribbean countries.
July 19 also marks further advances in the implementation of the FSLN’s historic program begun 40 years ago in 1979.
Development of the Caribbean Coast, equality between women and men, mass participation of people in literacy, education, health care and both civil and military defense. Perhaps most important of all have been the processes of popular consultation promoted by the FSLN, from the Autonomy Law for Indigenous and Afro-descendent people in the Caribbean Coast and the Constituent processes of the 1980s to the processes of social and economic consensus and dialogue of the last 12 years.
Just as there was clearly one Nicaragua before and a very different Nicaragua after July 19, 1979, so now too there is a new Nicaragua on July 19, 2019. Of particular importance is how the defeat of 2018’s failed coup attempt has vindicated the popular economy’s fundamental role in deepening Nicaragua’s revolutionary democratization. Hundreds of thousands of previously excluded women and rural families now participate making a decisive contribution to Nicaragua’s economic development via micro-businesses, collectives and cooperatives
Two things bear repeating. First, the attempted coup was a blow not against possible mistakes the government may have made, but against all the progress and achievements on behalf of peasants and workers that threatened the interests of the national and regional elites.
Second, the coup attempt was indeed defeated, and the coup plotters today, within Nicaragua, in the eyes of Nicaragua’s people, are more discredited and marginal than ever. This means that the Sandinista Revolution’s 40th anniversary marks a new stage in the Nicaraguan people’s march towards independence and justice. It symbolizes a class victory guaranteeing political power to all Nicaragua’s people, both as subjects of social rights, and too as direct producers controlling decisive spaces in the economy. This is a categorical defeat for the country’s reactionary and traitorous oligarchy who can see power slipping irrevocably from their hands.
In July 2018, the FSLN defeated the U.S.-backed opposition attempt to destroy it, just as it did in the 17 years after the historic electoral defeat of 1990. Promoted by the U.S. and its allies, the 2018 “soft coup” was a life-or-death trial of the resolution of Nicaragua’s people and of the Sandinista movement.
It failed because it crashed against the reality of a people who had been empowered and who identified with the grass roots social and economic policies of a Sandinista government regarded by the majority as fair, efficient and focused on the human person, namely, the families of Nicaragua. It also failed thanks to the sacrifice and restraint of the national police and the army during the months of crisis, from which those forces emerged with more popular legitimacy than ever.
Forty years on from 1979, the challenges for Nicaragua and the Sandinista movement are enormous, but so are their advances. Forty years ago, people at the grass-roots level learned to read and write. Today their children are professionals, lawyers, doctors, engineers, revolutionary teachers, trained in an ethic of serving the people.
The Nicaragua of 40 years ago has urbanized impressively. The generation now ready to assume the leadership of Nicaraguan society are children of the generation of Sandinista heroes and martyrs who sacrificed everything in the 1970s and 1980s. While the generations that follow may have lived all their lives in the 21st century, Sandino’s project and that of the Sandinista Front, is more valid than ever. It is the vision of a free and sovereign homeland, with social justice, free from ignorance, one in which as Sandino wrote, “the law of LOVE reigns, the only one that will reign over the Earth, when human fraternity comes about and the people are of LIGHT”.
Forty years on, the revolutionary impetus of Sandino, of Carlos Fonseca, of July 19, 1979 continues—unstoppable. Comandante Tomas Borge described the process as one of “patient impatience”, of strategic vision, alert understanding of the historical moment, a process of political discipline and the highest moral values. As long as the Nicaraguan nation exists as an objective, as a project, as a work-in-progress, there will be Sandino and there will be a Sandinista Front ensuring that this revolutionary project will be of, by and for the people.
And if the world ever reaches a stage that no longer need nations, when all the Earth’s people live in fraternity and human beings have become “of light,” there too will be Sandino, because that is the vision he has bequeathed to us. Forty years after the triumph of 1979 and one year after the defeating the failed coup attempt, the 40th anniversary celebration signifies absolute revolutionary commitment and unity among Sandinistas of all generations who have gained a new awareness of the historical sense of their identity and are more determined than ever to defend their victories and achievements for Nicaragua, for Latin America and for all of humanity.
Jorge Capelán and Stephen Sefton