Below is an excerpt from a speech by Tomás Borge, one of the leaders of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), before a crowd of half a million people in Managua July 19, 1981, celebrating the second anniversary of the Nicaraguan Revolution. It appears in Sandinistas Speak, one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for July. At the time the FSLN stood at the head of a workers and farmers government established after their revolutionary triumph in 1979. Copyright © 1982 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.
[W]hen we talk about the FSLN, we are not talking about something that is just a political party. We’re not talking simply about an armed organization. We are talking about a historic response. We are talking about the indivisible reality of the FSLN and the Nicaraguan people.
As long as this people is militant and proud, as long as this people is made up of heroic workers, as long as the workers and peasants and all revolutionaries are ready to defend the national sovereignty arms in hand, as long as there are Nicaraguans who love the land where they were born, as long as this people exists, the FSLN will continue to exist.
For this reason, all the efforts of those who were born in Nicaragua but now want to go back to the past, of the bootlickers of the Yankees, will fail. They will never be able to separate the people from their vanguard.
For the same reason, when the masses express their desires — and also their dissatisfactions — the FSLN, which is their highest form of organization, makes these desires and dissatisfactions its own, makes them part of its revolutionary action. …
And when we talk about the masses, we are not talking about some vague accumulation of individuals, but rather of a consciously organized population. It is impossible to build up your revolutionary power without both the quantitative and qualitative development of the popular organizations. Unless the working class generates and carries through these changes, the revolution will stagnate and rot. In other words, it will stop being a revolution.
The masses themselves must always — now and in the future — speak up in a loud, clear voice on their own behalf. They must develop ways of participating and taking initiatives. The FSLN knows that the Nicaraguan people fortunately are not the mindless herd that the enemies of the revolution have tried to portray them as.
The sons and daughters of this country are not robots, not mannequins. This is a population every day more conscious, more audacious, and more creative. With this heroic population, we will make it to our goal, we will go all the way. With this heroic population that understands the world around it more clearly every day, it will be easier to come up with the right answers to the questions the revolution poses.
If the leaders of this revolution want to resolve the enormous and complicated economic problems that Daniel [Ortega] talked about, the problems of defense, of health, of education, then we will have to turn to the masses, to make ourselves one with the masses. There are no mathematical formulas or brilliant theories we can use to solve the problems that present themselves as the revolution unfolds. There is only one answer, only one response — the impressive power of the masses, free from bureaucratic shackles, devoting themselves to the daily tasks of rebuilding the country.
And the whole world, both our friends and our enemies, knows what this heroic people is capable of. Sandino was the one who showed the way in defending our national honor. And who were Sandino’s followers? The same people who made this revolution, who are now making concessions to the classes that were finally thrown out of power in Nicaragua, after ruling for centuries.
And these are real concessions besides. For example, the businessmen have been given incentives to produce, and it was correct for this to be done. They were given all kinds of help and access to financial credit, and they will continue to get help in order to produce. But everybody should know that as of July 19, the day of our victory, their access to political credit is closed off. That road is closed to them, because power is now in the hands of all the descendants of Sandino’s ragtag army, of the barefoot soldiers, of the revolutionaries, of those who hunger and thirst for a justice that has been denied them since the beginning of our history.
And we are going to defend this power with the slingshot of David, except that in this slingshot we have, not a pebble, but rifle and cannon rounds. …
It is not strange that we are internationalists, because this is something we got from Sandino. All the revolutionaries and all the peoples of Latin America especially know that our people’s heart is with them, beats alongside theirs. Our heart goes out to Latin America, and we also know that Latin America’s heart goes out to the Nicaraguan revolution. This does not mean that we export our revolution. It is enough — and we couldn’t do otherwise — for us to export our example, the example of the courage, sensitivity, and determination of our people. …
Carrying forward the revolutionary process is harder, much harder, than the war itself. Because it involves a war against the misery of the exploited classes, a war against the misery that the exploiting classes have converted into a fact of life.
So we see that while we’re in the process of dealing with one problem, ten new ones come up. Sometimes we lose battles and sometimes we win battles in rebuilding the country. But of course what is important is the direction we are moving in, the meaning of what we are doing, and the things we accomplish. Our errors can be corrected, but what is lasting are the revolutionary transformations.
We are creating a new society in which an individual is not a piece of merchandise, a society in which there are no wolves and lambs, where men do not live off the exploitation of other men. We are struggling to create a society in which the workers are the fundamental power driving things forward, but in which other social sectors also play a role, always insofar as they identify with the interests of the country, with the interests of the great majority.