The Ideology and Domestic Politics of the Sandinistas

Reference: Brown University


In 1961, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, or Sandinistas) was founded by Silvio Mayorga, Tomás Borge, and Carlos Fonseca.  The group took its name from Augusto Cesár Sandino, who led a Liberal peasant army against the government of U.S.-backed Adolfo Díaz and the subsequent Nicaraguan government in the late 1920s and early 1930s.  Inspired by Fidel Castro’s and Che Guevara’s Cuban Revolution, the group sought to be “a political-military organization whose objective is the seizure of political power through the destruction of the bureaucratic and military apparatus of [Somoza’s] dictatorship.”

According to Dennis Gilbert, the first members of the FSLN were nationalistic students who were outraged at conditions in Nicaragua under Somoza.  They were also outraged at the United States over what they saw as consistent U.S. intervention in Nicaraguan affairs.  He argues that the Sandinistas’ ideology was rooted in Marxism and in a mistaken reading of Sandino as a pseudo-Marxist.  (Sandino himself was a populist who sought Nicaraguan independence from U.S. imperialism.  While he sought relief for the poor, he did not advocate for a Marxist class struggle.)

However, the Sandinistas were heavily influenced by Marxist-Leninist teachings, as the party leaders themselves sometimes admitted, but they interpreted these ideas in the context of their view of Nicaragua’s history.  Specifically, they thought of themselves as a Leninist vanguard party, a group of “professional revolutionaries” that would unite the Nicaraguan workers and peasants to destroy the “present system of capitalist exploitation and oppression” run by the Somoza dynasty and supported by the United States.

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