Write an essay explaining the transformation of the Sandinistas from a Party State (1980’s), to Removal from Office: Internal Conflict, Clashes and Exit (1990-1995) to The Emergence of “Danielismo” (1996-2006) to the FSLN’s Return to Power (2007-2009.)
Question 10

Write an essay explaining the transformation of the Sandinistas from a Party State (1980’s),
to Removal from Office: Internal Conflict, Clashes and Exit (1990-1995) to The Emergence of
“Danielismo” (1996-2006) to the FSLN’s Return to Power (2007-2009.) (Note: You must read
Salvador Marti I Puig’s article on “The Adaptation of the FSLN.”)

This article explores the capacity of the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN) to adapt to a changing Nicaraguan political environment over the last three decades. It focuses on the FSLN’s transformation to a party state, its defeat and its return.
The FSLN, a guerrilla organization founded in 1961, came to power as a result of starting a popular insurrection. Like any other guerrilla group, the FSLN was a political-military organization, very hierarchical, clandestine, and with a vertical leadership structure. However, with the triumph of the revolution in July 1979, the FSLN became the hegemonic political actor of the new era that was beginning and that the Sandinistas themselves baptized as the Sandinista Popular Revolution. After the triumph of the insurrection, Nicaragua’s different state institutions came under the FSLN’s control. As of 1979, its leaders occupied the key posts in the state administration.Later, after the first presidential and legislative competitive elections in November 1984, the government still included many members of the guerrilla: five leaders, nine members, and four activists. At the same time, throughout this period, the FSLN controlled 60 percent of the seats in the legislative body.
FSLN’s conception of itself as a “vanguard party,” like the Marxist-Leninist formations that defended “democratic centralism.” This idea was based on three pillars: the presence of an undisputed leadership, called the Dirección Nacional (DN); the so-called Organizaciones de Masas (OM), which were organically linked to the party. Inevitably, all of this pushed the FSLN toward a vertical and centralized decision making system. The party’s organizational core was structured according to a simple and brief statute. The party was organized on four levels: national, regional, zonal, and grassroots.

With regard to the FSLN’s number of members, estimates made before the 1990 elections suggested that they totalled about 50,000. This suggests that there had been a rapid process of “adaptation” to a social environment in which belonging to a party entailed certain privileges.
For the first time in the country’s history, the Nicaraguan authorities offered space to all the other opponents, in order to carry out an open electoral campaign.. Furthermore, in this scenario, any possible channels of self-criticism were closed, to such an extent that the FSLN was completely unaware of a possible electoral defeat. Before considering the next period, however, it is necessary to highlight the FSLN’s organizational characteristics during the decade it was in power. The degree of formality that the party developed during this phase was very intense, for several reasons. It had well-defined rules in brief and rigid statutes that were rigorously observed; it also exerted an absolute authority, which lay in a collegiate group of nine commanders, the Dirección Nacional, with internal debates on decisions that, once adopted, could not be questioned. The party bureaucracy, although it overlapped with the state bureaucracy, was conscious that its power was not in its status as a group of civil servants but as Sandinista militants. The party’s local units had a total lack of autonomy, since the authorities were chosen by the national governing body.. Party members had clearly defined tendencies toward political careers, and members were differentiated according to promotion and status—that is to say, the heroic, historic, ordinary, and aspiring militants—and these different ranks were publicly registered and acknowledged. All of this leads to the conclusion that during this period the FSLN was a solid, rigid organization with such a consistent level of formality that it was clearly completely fused with the very state that it controlled. The FSLN thus had the classic characteristics of a Marxist-Leninist group, as well as offering little autonomy to its leaders, since the nine Dirección Nacional members frequently disagreed. This collective composition of leadership neutralized any intentions to renovate the party’s leadership, structures, or symbols, since on many occasions, one of the nine commanders preferred to veto changes rather than lose his share of power. Precisely for this reason, the FSLN’s organization and structure did not change in organizational terms throughout the whole decade, despite the growth in the number of militants and the transformation in the state’s organization as a result of the approval of the Constitution of 1987.


 

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