By Jackie Coleman
MANAGUA — In the first of a series of mobilisations leading up to the celebration of the 1979 revolution on July 19, Sandinistas commemorated the 14th annual "Repliegue" on June 26.
The original Repliegue was the night-time withdrawal of thousands of Managuans when the tottering dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza started wholesale massacres and bombings against the rebellious popular barrios (suburbs). Most made it to the safety of Masaya, but the last group of people making the 30-
kilometre trek were attacked by the National Guard and hundreds were killed.
Six thousand people, led by the Sandinista youth organisation (JS19), marched the 30 km singing revolutionary songs, carrying flags or wearing the red and black FSLN colours. In Masaya they were welcomed by residents in the same spirit in which they were seen off by the crowd in Managua.
FSLN leader Daniel Ortega addressed the pre-march rally on this year's theme of "Fight together for employment". He expressed particular concern about the appearance of a heavily armed private paramilitary group under the guise of a security firm in workplaces where industrial action was under way.
At the large San Antonio Sugar Refinery these forces were brought in just before workers were sent home as a prelude to retrenchments. When they started to usurp police functions such as conducting searches and directing traffic, police chief Fernando Caldera sent a team to investigate and control the security force's operations.
The appearance of such paramilitary groups indicates the acknowledgment of the Nicaraguan ruling class that the police, let alone the army, cannot be relied upon to carry out adequately repression against workers or popular unrest. Ortega called on the army and police to continue to be faithful to their roots in the Sandinista revolution.
Ortega also refuted (with the strong support of the crowd), the recent claims of the Health and Education Ministers that services in these areas are now better than under the Sandinistas. Whereas the FSLN had provided these services for free, the UNO government has reintroduced fees for health services and schools in moves towards privatisation.
Responding to complaints that the FSLN leadership was holding back popular struggle in favour of pursuing high level negotiations with the government, Ortega called on all Nicaraguans, including UNO sympathisers, "to struggle together to end the government's crushing economic policies".
"We are for stability, but not at the cost of a hungry, unemployed people who were deceived by those who in the  electoral campaign promised heaven and earth", he said.
Comparing the morale of the FSLN today with that of 1979, Ortega declared, to the huge cheers of the crowd, that the FSLN maintains its great moral force and dignity, despite the electoral defeat and the attempts of the government to stamp it out "in the name of democracy".
This moral force was evident in the thousands of people who lined the streets to watch and applaud as the march wound its way through the poor suburbs of Managua. FSLN banners and flags hung from trees, power poles and houses, home stereos blared out revolutionary songs, and many residents offered refreshments to the passing marchers.
There will be a series of celebrations and rallies as the different cities and towns celebrate the anniversaries of their liberation by the FSLN. This will culminate on July 19, the 14th anniversary of the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship.