The twilight of the vanguard: The Sandinista Front, Leninism, and "new thinking" (domestic and international dimensions)

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Jiri Valenta - Committee Chair


Most political science literature concerning the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which ruled Nicaragua between 1979 and 1990, perceives this organization as democratic and, at most, radically nationalist. According to this perspective, the FSLN was radicalized by exogenous factors, specially by the US' anti-reformist, and hegemonistic foreign policy. Nonetheless an examination of key Sandinista documents, some of which defined the FSLN's goals, strategy, and tactics, shows an FSLN structured around a Marxist ideological framework and Leninist politico-organizational paradigms such as vanguard party, democratic centralism, and proletarian internationalism.This study analyzes relevant aspects of the FSLN's evolution, structure, and its domestic and international behavior, and finds a relevant relationship between these aspects of the Sandinista Front, its ideology, and Leninist organizational concepts. The analysis at the national level focusses on issues such as the FSLN's structure, and the relationship between political power and law in Sandinista Nicaragua. At the international level, this study concentrates on two areas: first, Sandinista diplomacy and goals in Central America, and second, and specially, Sandinista-Soviet relations. Diplomatic, political, economic, and military cooperation between Managua and Moscow throughout the 1979-1990 period is analyzed.This part of the analysis addresses what used to be known as Mikhail Gorbachev's "new thinking," the Soviet leader's attempt to recast the Leninist approach to international relations, and assesses "new thinking's" influence upon Nicaraguan-Soviet relations between 1985 and 1990. The study finds, again, that ideology was a crucial element of Sandinista-Soviet relations. The latter's ideological foundations and goals contributed to preclude a collaborative FSLN-Central America-US relationship.Ideology, in general terms an integrative model of reality, will survive within the foreseeable future in complex societies. Something similar occurs to political organizational concepts of diverse kind. All these are important, although intangible, variables which according to their orientation, affect the type and trends of foreign relations of any given regime, thus influencing international politics. These facts compound the efforts to harness world politics under fixed laws, or schematic theoretical frameworks, and advises a multidisciplinary approach to international relations.


History, Latin American; Political Science, General; Political Science, International Law and Relations

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