Aristotle’s Views on the Nicaraguan Sandinistas

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Ana Ruzo Period 4 Honorbound

According to Aristotle, “in all he does man seeks same good as end or means,” and is always aiming for end result of happiness (The Nicomachaen Ethics).   Without a doubt, this is generally a true statement for all people. Humans always strive to achieve their happy ending- everyone wants happiness as their final end. But the problem is that “there are many ends,” as Aristotle addresses in The Nicomachaean Ethics. The relative definition of happiness allows people many options of what they would like to consider their “final end.” Since it is relative, what makes one person happy, may make another miserable. An example that comes to mind when thinking about this is corrupted governments and their officials. “The state exists for the sake of a good life” of the citizens; however this is not always held as a true statement for some countries (Politics). For many times, governments and their officials are not truly concerned with the “ends” of their citizens. Falling into the vices of fame and fortune, officials often become corrupted and do not take to heart that fact that as leaders of their countries they have the power to shape the lives and “ends” of their citizens.

The Central American country of Nicaragua for centuries has experienced corruption within their government leading from bad to worse as their country continues to be “one of the poorest countries in Latin America” (“Nicaragua”). Opposed to building up their citizens, corrupted Nicaraguan officials make sure to keep their people oppressed and poor to ensure their own wealth and power within the government. The uneducated poor living below the poverty line in Nicaragua, which makes up 46.2% of the population, have been deceived time after time by the Sandinistas, the left-winged revolutionary ruling group of Nicaragua (“Nicaragua Population”). Aristotle would be appalled to witness the Sandinistas treating Nicaragua like their own private property, rather than treating it like a “state, [that] is a community of families and aggregations of families in well-being, for the sake of a perfect and self-sufficing life” (Politics). Just by the fact that 46.2% of the Nicaraguan population is below the poverty line proves that the Sandinistas have not helped their citizens become self-sufficing whatsoever.

Aristotle states his view on what is good and says that “good things often do people harm: men have before now been ruined by wealth..;” this accurately describes the corruption that has been going on in Nicaragua for the past decades (The Nicomachaean Ethics). The Sandinistas were not always considered corrupt. For instance, at the beginning of the 1970s, they were a revolutionary group that stood up for the rights of Nicaraguan citizens that were being oppressed under General Anastasio Somosa, Nicaragua’s dictator at the time. They were the underdogs that the Nicaraguan people rooted for; they were Nicaragua’s hope. And like Somosa’s reign, the Sandinistas too got caught up in the wealth and power, and like that- they went from wanting the best for the citizens and country to self-centered, greedy corrupt officials. The Sandinistas’ intentions were good – but wealth and power ruined them and made them as corrupt as the previous dictatorship in Nicaragua. Like Aristotle once stated “if he have not virtue, he is the most unholy and the most savage of animals, and the most full of lust and gluttony” (Politics). Soon like, Somoza’s reign, the Sandinistas would become un-virtuous leading to a selfish, greedy life while leaving Nicaragua’s people and economy in turmoil.

The Nicaraguan Revolution of 1979 was fought between the rightist regime under the Dictator Augusto Somosa and the left wing idealistic revolutionaries known as the Sandinistas (Schutz). As previously stated, the Sandinistas stood for hope and justice to the Nicaraguan people. The Sandinistas gained popularity among the poor citizens of Nicaragua through their three main beliefs. The three beliefs they stood for were: political democracy- “they supported a republican form of government… based on elections with universal suffrage,” participatory democracy- meaning they condoned citizen participation throughout the government, and finally economic equality, a “communistic economy and complete equalization of wealth” which combined both Marxist and socialist ideals (Schutz).  The Sandinistas, also known as FSLN, “viewed themselves as the catalyst of the proletariat revolution in Nicaragua” (Schutz). Much of the Sandinistas’s views and actions were influenced by the teachings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles. Their ideas centered around these two men, because the “father of the Sandinistas”- Augusto Sandino idolized Karl Marx. FSLN even justified their rebellion by explaining that they were “freeing people from social, economic, and political oppression” (Schutz).

By July of 1979, the Sandinistas had gained power in Nicaragua, and had officially overthrown the dictator’s regime. As one of their first actions, they enacted The Fundamental Law of State (Schutz). This law gave the Nicaraguan citizens rights that had been previously nonexistent thanks to Somoza’s dictatorship. The law granted the Nicaraguan citizens with equal justice under law, the right to free expression, and the abolition of torture. It’s safe to say, it was a day of victory for Nicaraguans. Things seemed to be turning around for the previously oppressed citizens.

Although as time grew on, so did the heads of the new Sandinista government officials. With wealth and power corrupting them, they failed to keep their promises to their citizens especially regarding their principles over political democracy. Even though they had promised political pluralism and free elections, the Sandinistas immediately set up a ruling Junta- which consisted of five Sandinista officials. It was now a common reoccurrence of the Sandinistas to go back on their own promises. Even when it seemed as though their intentions were good, the Sandinistas were always looking out for the good of themselves, rather than the good of the state. They started the National Literacy Campaign of 1980- which caused literacy rates to rise from 45% to 86%. Sadly the Sandinistas did not start this campaign for the betterment of their people- but used this tool to brainwash the poor with pro-Sandinista propaganda hoping to “win over the rural proletariat in this way” (Schutz). Governments “which regard only the interest of the rulers are all defective and perverted forms, for they are despotic, whereas a state is a community of freemen” (Politics). Aristotle’s statement goes to show the Sandinistas did not treat Nicaragua like a true state. This corrupted government took advantage of its people through their self-centered, greedy ways.

Then the FSLN began focusing on their equalization of wealth campaign. The Junta was devoted to make equal proportions of land- since “prior to 1979, about 4% of the landowners controlled about 52% of the arable land” (Schutz). From 1981 to 1985, the Sandinistas were illegally confiscating people’s lands and turning them into peasant collectives, in accordance to their communist ideals. The Sandinistas were now politically and socially persecuting the “bourgeois” of Nicaragua. And although the Sandinistas claimed they were redistributing the lands to the poor- many times they would keep the land for themselves, giving the needy as little as possible. “For the sake of the advantage which is to be gained from the public revenues and from office, men want to be always in office” (Politics). Aristotle’s quote truly embodies the true reason these officials even strove to become “leaders.” The Sandinistas care more about the benefits than they do about the overwhelming poverty in Nicaragua.

Throughout the 1980s, the right wings and the FSLN began guerilla warfare once again. However, continuing with their communist ideals- the FSLN began to nationalize industries within the country.  The Sandinistas were becoming more and more controlling and power-hungry. They issued reforms which “initiated control, with so-called ‘wildcat nationalizations’, over 20% of the cotton industry, 50% of the tobacco industry, and 60% of the ‘staple cereal’ industry” (Schutz). In 1985, the Sandinistas created the “National Assembly” to help promote peace; yet Sandinistas were the overwhelming population and “represented a semblance of democracy guaranteed to Nicaraguans by the Sandinista revolutionaries” (Schutz). Clearly, this National Assembly did not solve anything. Aristotle states that the “state is composite, like any other whole made up of many parts” (Politics). The Sandinistas were not allowing the state to be run in many parts: the government was controlling everything.

The Sandinista regime may have “tried” to appear as though they were attempting to help their citizens by granting them basic rights they did not have previously and giving them a voice in the government. However, most Nicaraguans that were granted these privileges by the FSLN were “overwhelmingly poor and too uneducated to enjoy [and fully use] these rights” (Schutz). The FSLN took advantage of the poverty and lack of education of their citizens to manipulate them.

As time grew, the Sandinistas seemed to become more corrupt. In 1986, FSLN shut down a popular Nicaraguan newspaper, La Prensa, because of its anti-Sandinista articles. Clearly, the Sandinistas did not hold true to their promise of freedom of expression. “Politcal oppression, freedom violations, and oligarchy—these were all things Somoza’s regime represented, and sadly enough, the Sandinistas later inherited” (Schutz).

Today, the Sandinistas continue to corruptly rule the country of Nicaragua- under the President (dictator) Daniel Ortega. Ortega was involved with the Sandinistas government in the previous decades. If Aristotle was able to see Nicaragua’s government which to this day continues to be under the FSLN – he would not hesitate to tell them they do not understand what it means to run a state. A true “state is [the] union of families and villages in a perfect and self-sufficing life, by which we mean a happy and honorable life” (Politics). The state is supposed to allow the citizen to reach its full potential. Aristotle would agree that throughout the years, Sandinistas have proved themselves unsuitable to rule Nicaragua, just by the fact that they oppress their people and to a point to do not give them opportunities to become self-sufficing.

Works Cited

FSLN. N.d. Photograph. LINKS: International Journal of Socialist Renewal. 7 Nov. 2009. Web.   3 May 2013.

“Nicaragua.” The World Factbook. CIA, n.d. Web. 1 May 2013.

“Nicaragua Population below Poverty Line.” Index Mundi. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2013.

Schutz, Jorian. “The Impact of the Sandinistas on Nicaragua.” Jorian.com. N.p., 1998. Web. 1      May 2013.

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