A Socialist Labor Party Statement—


Where Are We Heading?

February 21 marks the anniversary of the murder of the Nicaraguan patriot Augusto Cesar Sandino on February 21, 1934, by agents of the dictator Anastasio Somoza.

Americans ought to reflect upon that occurrence and the events that preceded it because they contain important lessons for us all. One can never understand what is going on in Nicaragua today or why the U.S. government is threatening this small nation now unless one understands some of its history. It is not history of which Americans can be proud, but it is history nonetheless.

During the 19th century, long before it became a world power, the United States established important commercial interests in Central America. In 1855 an American adventurer, William Walker, aided by American business interests, invaded Nicaragua with a private army and for a brief period set himself up as its dictator.

Throughout the late 19th century, Nicaragua repeatedly experienced periods of internal turmoil. At the same time, the power of U.S. business interests grew to the point where they eventually controlled the Nicaraguan economy. In 1912, during one of Nicaragua’s many civil wars, the United States sent Marines into Nicaragua on the double pretext that it had been requested to do so by Nicaragua’s president and that the U.S. forces were there to protect American lives and property (much as the United States did in Grenada in October 1983). The 1912 invasion turned into a 13-year occupation, during which the United States installed a puppet government in Nicaragua that virtually sold the country to American business interests.

U.S. military forces were finally withdrawn in 1925 only to return in 1926, once again to install a government totally dependent upon this country.

It is at this point that Sandino stepped upon the stage of history. He was no military man or politician. He was a simple man with peasant roots that ran deeply into the soil of Nicaragua. He was a patriot who loved his country. He had been a farmer and cowhand and had also worked as a miner, watchman and oil well rigger.

At the time, Sandino was 32 years old and virtually unknown in Nicaragua. He joined the growing resistance to the U.S. occupation, and, when that resistance was ready to sell out to the United States, Sandino and a small group of nationalists established an independent guerrilla army that continued to resist the U.S. occupation. From 1928 until 1933 Sandino’s “army” fought both U.S. forces and their Nicaraguan puppets. The American forces were withdrawn in 1933. They left behind what was to become the notorious National Guard, set up and trained by U.S. Marines and commanded by Anastasio Somoza, hand picked by the American ambassador to Nicaragua.

Sandino made the tragic mistake of believing that the end of U.S. occupation also brought an end to the suffering of Nicaragua. He and his followers laid down their arms and joined in a cooperative farming project. On the night of February 21, 1934, he was murdered by Somoza’s troops as he left a conference at the National Palace in Managua to which he had been invited. His murder was planned and executed by Somoza with the full knowledge and support of the U.S. ambassador and his government.

By 1936 Anastasio Somoza was entrenched as dictator of Nicaragua. He and his two sons continued to rule until their infamous regime was overthrown in July 1979. The movement that destroyed the Somoza dictatorship and that now governs Nicaragua—the Sandinista National Liberation Front—took its name and inspiration from Sandino. And it is this government that the United States now seeks to destroy for the same reasons that it could not tolerate Sandino—namely, his opposition to U.S. dominance and exploitation.

The American media during the 1920s and 1930s denounced Sandino as a “bandit,” much like the media today denounce as a “terrorist” anyone who opposes U.S. imperialism. The U.S. government at that time spread the lie that the trouble in Nicaragua was fomented by “radical” Mexico much the way the present administration blames Cuba for U.S. difficulties in Nicaragua.

Don’t be fooled by the rantings of the Reagan administration that seeks to destroy Nicaraguan independence by its support for direct military action or, for that matter, by the glib talk of Democratic liberals who seek to strangle that independence by naval and economic blockades. Examine closely the reasons why the United States behaves as it does in the Third World and how that behavior is linked directly to the very nature of our economic system.

Yes, American working people must oppose U.S. intervention in Nicaragua, but we must also learn the lessons of history or we’re going to be forced to relive old mistakes.

Don’t allow this “antiwar movement” to disappear, as did the anti-Vietnam War movement of the 1960s and 1970s, without ever getting to the heart of the problem. Take the time to look carefully at the issues and at the socialist alternative to a world of continuing mindless slaughter, oppression and exploitation.


Socialist Labor Party of America, P.O. Box 218, Mountain View, CA 94042-0218 • www.slp.org • socialists@slp.org

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