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Democracy and Socialism in Sandinista Nicaragua

Harry E. Vanden and Gary Prevost
ISBN: 978-1-55587-682-1
1993/184 pages/LC: 92-24289

"Compact but comprehensive; sophisticated yet accessible."—NACLA: Report on the Americas

"A highly original and reflective reappraisal of Nicaragua's revolution. . . . It will contribute to a clear-headed evaluation of the revolutionary experience."—Choice

"Offers a significant contribution to the understanding of the democratic experiment in Nicaragua and raises timely questions as to the problems for facilitating and nurturing a viable democratic model. . . . an invaluable work which is a must for students and scholars alike."—Journal of Third World Studies


Moving beyond Cold War rhetoric and stereotypical views of Third World Marxism, the authors convincingly argue that the democratic tradition and practice that was emerging in socialist Nicaragua could well serve as a model for other Third World states. They analyze concepts of democracy and the ideology of the FSLN and show that the Sandinista movement is not in any way stock Marxist-Leninism. Instead, this nationalist variant of Third World Marxism is—like most others—a function of indigenous realities.

Vanden and Prevost demonstrate that Nicaragua has seen the establishment of at least three different forms of democracy: popular, participatory democracy (manifested in mass organizations); Western-style representative democracy (as seen in the 1984 and 1990 elections and the resultant governmental structure); and Leninist vanguardism (shown in the functioning of the FSLN itself). After showing why participatory democracy did not triumph, they conclude with an assessment of the 1990 elections and their impact on the future of democracy in Nicaragua.


Harry E. Vanden is professor of political science and Director of the Center for Caribbean and Latin American Studies at the University of South Florida. Gary Prevost is professor of government at Saint John's University in Minnesota.


  • Introduction.
  • The Genesis of Sandinismo.
  • Democracy and the Development of Mass Organizations.
  • The 1984 Elections and the Evolution of Nicaraguan Governmental Structures.
  • Sandinista Thought and Action.
  • The Evolving Structure of the FSLN.
  • The 1990 Elections: Capitalism and Western-Style Democracy Stop the Revolution.