Sandinistas, de Blasio, and American democracy

According to a recent article in The New York Times, two of the candidates running for mayor of New York have become alarmed about the worldview of Bill de Blasio, the front running candidate of the Democratic Party. You can be sure that whatever his world view happened to be it would have alarmed them simply because they are running against him.

They are alarmed because some 30 or so years ago de Blasio supported the Sandinista movement in Nicaragua, which had overthrown one of the most vile dictatorships in Central America: the Somoza regime. The Sandinistas had carried out land reform and brought a modicum of democracy and freedom to the vast majority of the poor people of this impoverished country. Millions of young people, workers and students in the United States – and around the world – supported the Sandinistas and cheered their victory over the fascist thugs in Somoza’s private army, the so called “National Guard.”

The Republican candidate for mayor, Joseph J. Lhota, a former deputy mayor under the racist Giuliani administration and a supporter of “stop-and-frisk” that selectively targets minority youth for police harassment and has been found unconstitutional by a federal court, is very upset over de Blasio’s past support for the people who ended the Somoza dictatorship and instituted free elections in Nicaragua. The Sandinistas are, by the way, the current government in Nicaragua, having been freely elected by the Nicaraguan people.

“It’s pretty obvious,” Lhota said, “we think very, very differently about the way the governments of the world should work.” Well the Republicans under the Reagan administration tried to overthrow the Nicaraguan government, you may recall, by illegally selling arms to Iran and using the money to finance the “contras,” the fascist remnants of the Somoza dictatorship. This was the infamous Iran-Contra scandal, so called because the U.S. Congress had passed a law against funding the fascists but President Reagan went ahead anyway behind the backs of the American people. It is pretty obvious that Lhota’s way of thinking is very different from the thinking of those who are opposed to fascist dictatorships and presidents who ignore the laws passed by the Congress.

Lhota was also upset that de Blasio had once called himself a “democratic socialist.” “It’s really unfortunate that that’s the level that we’ve come to in this city,” Lhota said. It is only natural that a Republican 1 percenter would be alarmed about a philosophy that considers the interests of the 99 percent. Lhota should be reminded that some of the staunchest U.S. allies are governments run by social democrats. The British Labour Party, which was headed by Tony Blair and allied the United Kingdom with the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, is a social democratic party. It holds observer status with the Socialist International and is affiliated with the Party of European Socialists in the European Union.

While Lhota prides himself in being in the Republican Party, a party that has just stripped $40 billion over the next 10 years from the food stamp program, and is waging a real class war against the poor and the middle class in this country, de Blasio was quoted as saying “Fighting for equality to me – I say this humbly – is my life’s work.” Mr. Lhota will never have to worry that will be said of him.

The other alarmed candidate, Adolfo Carrión Jr., is running on the Independence Party line. This faction-ridden party has leading figures who subscribe to an ultra-left version of fake Marxism and are followers of the late Fred Newmann, who created his own brand of opportunistic “Marxism,” and whose faction was, until recently, dominant in the New York City area. Carrión’s criticisms of de Blasio (that he is a Guevarista and that his politics are “right out of ‘Animal Farm'”) are ludicrous in the extreme. Carrión, who had a promising career as a Democrat, a former Obama official and Bronx borough president, seems to have gone off the deep end with his criticism of de Blasio.

De Blasio, in his support of the Nicaraguan revolution as a young man, is more in line with the founders of the American Revolution than his two vociferous and reactionary critics. Both Lhota and Carrión should reflect a little on the history of the U.S., which was born of just such a revolution against the tyranny of King George III.

Photo: In the 1980s, a large movement in solidarity with the people of Nicaragua and El Salvador and opposed to Reagan’s “dirty wars” emerged in the United States. It included a broad section of people, especially from Catholic and other faith-based traditions. The current movement to close the School of the Americas, pictured here, comes out of that 1980s activism. (Roger Hollander)


Thomas Riggins
Thomas Riggins

Thomas Riggins has a background in philisophy, anthropology and archeology. He writes from New York, NY. Riggins was associate editor of Political Affairs magazine.