Popular economy and national development
By Orlando Nunez, in Barricada, (Managua), 9 December 1996
Today when everyone appears to agree -- and when there are differences, they appear to be only in relation to quotas of power -- it's worth discussing the political-ideological identity of the main national forces in Nicaragua; and to do that there is nothing better than an analysis of the economic positions of each one of the main ideological currents in Nicaragua: liberalism, neoliberalism and sandinism.
Liberalism believes that market competition is the best mechanism to achieve the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people, believing that the best agent for driving the economy is the industrial bourgoisie, and therefore confers upon it the role of state social regulator to mitigate conflicts.
The crisis of overproduction, the increase in misery and the resulting social disturbances, have brought liberalism to intervene late with anti-cyclical economic techniques, including testing a social welfare policy.
Meanwhile, mercantile competition and concomitant crises continue to be exacerbated, to the point of causing a level of economic and social difference which makes misery universal and strengthens the emergence of the monopolies and the protaganism of financial capital over the productive markets.
Neoliberalism abandons the laissez-faire of its early years, and freeing itself of its ephemeral sensitivity, proposes to re-establish the economic balance of the market, support the commercial/financial oligarchy, and confer upon the state the function of economic regulation, in favor of large capital.
In neoliberalism, the categories of free market and deregulation mask the brutal intervention of the state and of the international monopolistic enclaves, brandishing the iron scalpel of the monetary, credit, exchange and tax policies; the categories of privatization and commercial opening mask the transfer of resources of capital to an oligarchic class, that is, monopolistic, income-gathering, mercantile (spoils of the state), and speculative.
Neoliberalism greatly strengthens the renovated tools of window-shopping consumerism and of the electoral urns, wasted before due to the crisis of formal and representative democracy; taking advantage of the lascivious images of the media and the guilt of the poor and the rebellious for the recent sin of social revolutions.
Perhaps the most national and belated characteristic of neoliberalism is to consider capital the true subject of the economy, aware that the most functional thing for monopolistic accumulation is the automatic functioning of the market, independently of which businesspeople gain or lose, even allowing for the majority of productive businesspeople in a country to end up reduced to economic insolvency.
That is why a neoliberal proposal is recognized, when its economic proposal is presented, prioritizing monetary economic policies, leaving for a later time the sectoral policies (if they are mentioned), and supposing that the motor of production is the conventional private sector (read monopolistic and transnational consortiums).
Popular Economy, in the first place, proposes the protaganism of the productive subjects of development, in second place, a sectoral policy articulated around popular interests; and in third place monetary policies subordinated to and in function of the productive project of those subjects.
Popular Economy's point of departure is the existence of the market (and its social perversities) as a context of economic competition, without conferring upon it the status of panacea or fatality, but as a current framework in which the struggle between the different political, social and economic subjects unfolds; and considers that the state should play a strategic role in coordinating and complementing national development efforts.
Without denying the rights of businesspeople, Popular Economy counts on the majority of agricultural producers and workers being responsible for the resources and skills and to act in an associative manner in regard to property and capital, production and marketing, economic processing and policies. And, in the case of Nicaragua, given the access to the reformed sector of land and capital, counts on the economic/popular subjects be able to compete within a democratic framework of equality of opportunity for all, rejecting explicity the competition of monopolies and speculative traffic.
Economic programs, identity of the political parties
Lately it has been pointed out that the economic proposals of the different political parties do not differ substantially, and that we all embrace the liberal philosophy, in clear allusion to the Program 2002 presented during the FSLN electoral campaign. I would like to clarify, in honor of the truth and as a participant in the proposal which the economic commission presented to the Sandinista Assembly, where we believe the similarities and differences lie.
The UNO government (1990-1996) was characterized by combining representative political democracy with a neoliberal economic program, with the consequences of impoverishment of the population and economic insolvency of the non-monopolistic producers, resulting in turn in the enrichment of a political oligarchy through the mechanisms of concertation and corruption.
Judging from its statements and the records of its cabinet members, the new government emerging from a liberal alliance is showing that its economic program will be dedicated to "combat the established monopoly, the oligarchic characteristics of the previous political classes, and the commitment to legalize the lands and possessions of the popular sectors." Judging by the alliances formed during the campaign, the liberal government appears to be on the road to moving between a populist alliance with the popular sectors and an inter-bourgoisie alliance with the capital in Miami.
In the case of the FSLN, we see different manifestations of an as yet unfinished debate in relation to its own identity, although in general oriented toward what we call popular economy.
Perhaps the economic program which is closest to and and most argues for a popular economy is the Economic Proposal of the Sandinista Assembly. Here we lead with the following objectives: "productive reactivation with economic stabilization and participatory action, incorporating and strengthening the economic and social sectors which today are marginalized, as economic subjects of development." Following the strategies are proposed, and finally the policies which would allow the achievement of the proposed objectives; and lastly, the proposal for a framework of alliances among producers and workers.
There is another proposal entitled: Line of Economic Policy (program 2002), approved by the National Directorate during the electoral campaign. Here "it is proposed to achieve a growth (...) based on a group of economic policy measures aimed at achieving a determined level of exportation." As opposed to the previous proposal, this one makes explicit the hierarchy of the monetary balances on the destiny of the producers, by proposing "the framework of macroeconomic policy of sectoral character, that is microeconomics which impact directly on the expectations of the economic agents."
There is a point at which distance is taken from the over-politization of the neoliberal economic policies of the Chamorro family: "Clear signals will be given to the economic agents with transparent measures and without any sign of preferential character."
Also, there is a point in common with the economic proposal of the Sandinista Assembly, which is "the installation of a National Economic and Social Council," although in the FSLN's program 2002 it is proposed as a "forum for civil society." y The rest of the proposal is aimed mainly at the discussion of the economic policies in vogue within the neoliberal culture: trust in the automatic implementation of monetary, credit, exchange and fiscal policies; trust in the market and in private sector investment; omitting the struggle against oligopolies and corruption; and not conceding any priority to the reformed sectors of the popular economy.
Finally, a last point by the FSLN directorate after the results of the October 20 elections, in which some of the main points of the Sandinista Assembly's economic proposal are reiterated: "respect for the regimen of reformed property and the beneficiaries of the urban and agrarian reform and of the concertation agreements," "immediate and massive granting of titles to land, lots and houses according to the law," "solution to the problem of delay of the producers and orientation of external resources to promote the growth of economic activity," "establishment of legal and administrative mechanisms to avoid the formation of oligopolies which work against the redistribution of wealth and the well-being of society," "assurance of public health care service and basic medicines for low-income families, prioritizing children and mothers, as well as rural workers, in the health care service coverage."
The need for an Economic and Social Council, a common point between the first and second proposals, does not now appear in the 14 points of the concertation agenda proposed by the FSLN directorate. Neither is mentioned the popular alliance between producers and workers which appears on the economic proposal of the Sandinista Assembly.
We want to invite the Sandinistas who are within or outside the party, progressive professionals, and especially the popular social forces in general, to support a popular economic option based on farming and ranching production, the association of direct producers, the sustainability of our resources, fraternity and solidarity among men and women, and in which the economic or social policy of the government in power is complemented by the policies of the people themselves, organized in different manners in civil society.
Translated by Toby Mailman