"This government is made up, if you wish, of beginners," said junta member Arturo Cruz, one of the Nicaraguan government's more moderate members. "We are all beginners."

Technocrats like Cruz, excluded from power in the past by dictator Anastasio Somoza, fighting men like most of the Sandinistas, who spent 20 years learning to gain power and have had only 12 months to find out how to use it, are still learning on the job.

The greatest problems and in some regards the greatest strengths shown by revolutionary Nicaragua in the year since Somoza's fall have been a result of this inexperience, mixed with idealism and a fierce determination to find pragmatic answers to the country's difficulties.

The most heated public controversy atthe moment is whether, how, and when elections should take place.

The private business sector is pushing hard for a voting date to be set. Yet many observers believe that sector would lose political strength in elections. Business interests currently have representation, along with labor, farm workers, the Army and minority political parties, based not so much on their popular support as on their economic power.

The Sandisnista Front for National Liberation -- which led the revolution, effectively holds the reins of power, propagandizes heavily and is widely considered invincibly popular -- has repeatedly expressed reluctance to test its strength at the polling places in the immediate future.

Both the Sandinistas and non-Sandinista members of the government, like Cruz, argue that in a country with a history of dictatorship that goes back 50 years, voters must be prepared before going to the polls.

The private sector and opposition politicians maintain that the preparation, which in some cases smacks of indoctrination, is secondary to the beginning of the electoral process itself.

After a serious internal political crisis in April, brought on by the resignation of the only two independents in the five-person junta, Violeta Chamorro and Alfonso Robelo, the Sandinistas reportedly promised businessmen that a date for municipal elections would be announced on or before the July 19 celebration of the revolution's first anniversary.

It was not, and last night members of Nicaragua's Superior Council of Private Enterprise accused the Sandinistas of bad faith and threatened to resign from the legislative-advisory Council of State if talks with the Sandinistas do not bring some resolution.

A compromise seems likely, as the Sandinistas continue to reaffirm their support for democratic process in general terms and the businessmen reaffirm their support for the revolution.

Cruz, who joined the junta in April, pointed out yesterday that the first essential stage of preparation, the nationwide literacy campaign, is almost completed. According to government statistics, 108,000 people have been taught to read since March, and by the end of the summer more than 500,000 more illiterates in a population of 2.5 million are to be at least marginally literate.

The next stage will be voter registration, an important step in a nation where in the past fraud was common-place. Cruz would not name a date for registration. He said it would be "rather soon" and told reporters that technical consultations are already under way.

Businessmen and landowners, meanwhile, despite occasional denunciations by the government, have shown increasing willingness to support reconstruction under the Sandinista leadership. They have committed themselves to sow at least 225,000 acres of cotton, 155,000 less than under Somoza but a considerable achievement in light of the country's turbulent recent history.

Although the Sandinista leadership -- taking its name from an earlier Nicaraguan revolutionary, Augusto Cesar Sandino -- is primarily composed of thoroughly committed Marxists, 60 percent of the nation's economy is still in the hands of private enterprise. There is pressure for a more extensive agrarian reform program but that now proposed is considerably less extensive than what the U.S. government has pressed for in nearby El Salvador.

Typical of the success of the new leadership in promoting compromise, even amid its frequent public outbreaks of confrontational rhetoric, has been its ability to win broad international support -- including Cuba and the United States, Western Europe and oil-rich Venezuela.

Washington has committed itself to $122 million in aid, more than for any other country in Latin America at the moment.

Managua, which has laid in rubble since the massive earthquake of 1972, partly because Somoza pocketed much of the aid money from overseas, is now being rebuilt. Despite the government's occasional alarms against counterrevolutionary violence, the country clearly is at peace.