Workers Vanguard No. 1070

12 June 2015


From the Archives of Spartacist

1965 U.S. Invasion of Dominican Republic

“Hands Off the Dominican Revolution!”

This past April 28 marked 50 years since Democratic U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson launched a bloody invasion of the Dominican Republic. Tens of thousands of troops were dispatched to that Caribbean country to suppress a prerevolutionary situation and secure the interests of American sugar companies.

The Dominican Republic had been brutally repressed by U.S.-backed dictator General Rafael Trujillo for over 30 years until his own CIA-trained aides bumped him off in 1961, after he had become a liability to the imperialists. Juan Bosch, a liberal anti-Communist, was elected president in December 1962 and passed some mild land and labor reforms to quell popular unrest. But the reforms went too far for Washington, and Bosch was overthrown in a CIA-engineered military coup nine months later.

In the spring of 1965, a group of liberal army officers, including Colonel Francisco Caamaño, launched an insurrection to restore Bosch’s 1963 constitution. Workers and students in the capital, Santo Domingo, joined the rebellion and organized committees that were potential organs of workers power. However, the Dominican masses were betrayed by their reformist leadership that tied them to Bosch instead of fighting for socialist revolution.

The uprising took place only a few years after the Cuban Revolution of 1959-60, in which Fidel Castro’s peasant guerrilla forces ousted the regime of Fulgencio Batista and subsequently consolidated a deformed workers state with the expropriation of the capitalist class on the island. Moreover, in 1965, a civil war and social revolution were underway in Vietnam. The imperialists feared that the Dominican insurgency similarly threatened an overturn of capitalism.

The crushing of the rebellion by the U.S. invasion and 14-month occupation resulted in the deaths of 2,500 Dominicans; for years afterward, workers and leftists continued to be tortured and disappeared. In 1966, Joaquín Balaguer ascended to the presidency and ruled for most of the next 30 years, keeping the country safe for U.S. imperialist domination.

We reprint below a Spartacist special supplement issued on 6 May 1965, with one correction on the year of Trujillo’s assassination. A follow-up article, “Reformist Betrayal,” was printed in Spartacist No. 7 (September-October 1966).

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The United States’ bloody occupation of the Dominican Republic, by order of the Johnson Administration, has been unquestionably the most brazen of recent American military efforts to safeguard the interests of capitalism and maintain its oppression domestically and abroad. “For the first time since 1927, U.S. Marines have landed in a fermenting Caribbean country—and frankly, we’re delighted,” said the ultra-rightist N.Y. Daily News (30 April 1965) in an editorial entitled “Seems Like Old Times.”

Rebellion Led to Revolution

As in all colonial countries, the pro-U.S. Dominican ruling class is maintained by imperialism and in return administers the society for imperialism. The “liberal” wing, led by deposed President Juan Bosch, supports “reforms” and “democratic” trappings to stave off basic change and maintain social oppression. The liberals attempted a coup against the junta of the right wing, which realizes that only naked dictatorship can save imperialism and Dominican capitalism. It is significant that under both regimes the economic condition of the country deteriorated.

This crisis provided an opportunity for the Dominican workers and peasants to intervene, much as they had done in 1961 when Trujillo was assassinated. The fatal mistake of Bosch and Colonel Caamaño in banking upon mass support to help return the liberals to power was described by a pro-U.S. observer: “The leaders of the elements favoring the return of former President Juan Bosch were on the verge of taking over the government 24 hours after the revolution began.... But then they let the revolution get out of their hands. I saw pro-Bosch forces handing out weapons to anyone who asked for them.” (N.Y. Journal-American, 2 May 1965.) On 30 April, “U.S. officials in Santo Domingo and other observers believe no one is now in control...of the armed rebel bands, which include many young civilians.” At this point, “American officials hinted strongly that it would be necessary for American troops to occupy Santo Domingo.” (N.Y. Post.)

In spite of U.S. ranting about a “minority take-over,” it is clear that what developed was an uprising of a large section of the masses against the imperialist power structure—even against the efforts of certain “Communist” and liberal leaders to tie them to Bosch. According to the press, a rebel stronghold has been the Ciudad Nueva section of the city, “an area of low income housing and student quarters. Planes strafed the area Wednesday and yesterday.” (Herald Tribune, 30 April.) On 2 May, “the rebels were winning.” Their forces, swollen to thousands “by armed civilians...could not be controlled by their military leaders.” (Same paper) Johnson at once sent in Marines to “save American lives”; but this “humanitarian” pretext, loudly touted by liberal apologists, was rapidly dropped. Instead, as Johnson has admitted, the aim of U.S. intervention was to crush the developing revolution.

Realpolitik Behind Intervention

William Randolph Hearst, Jr., in a Journal-American editorial (2 May), favorably quoted Johnson’s State of the Union message of 4 January: “We are prepared to live as good neighbors with all, but we cannot be indifferent to acts designed to injure our interests, or our citizens, or our establishments abroad.” Barry Goldwater “stressed the effectiveness of ‘big stick’ diplomacy” and said, “Yes, I approve the landing of the Marines in Santo Domingo for the protection of American lives and property.” (Journal-American, 30 April.)

Equally guided by Realpolitik are the liberal apologists who regret Johnson’s “imprudence” in “going it alone” in unabashed imperialist fashion instead of relying on the Organization of American States (mainly a band of U.S.-backed dictatorships) to do the job under a “democratic” facade. The token contingent which Johnson finally extorted from the OAS to his “international peace force” has been obviously designed to whitewash his butchery behind a drapery of phony “legality” and “consensus.” It is now obvious that Johnson has not sent 20,000 troops to suppress a Communist “minority,” but to fight thousands of workers and rank-and-file Dominican militants who partly bypassed their “Communist” and liberal leaders and rallied the support of the Dominican masses to a popular revolution against imperialism. Johnson’s “concern” about the “foreign training” of agitators was designed to divert attention away from the direct rape of the Dominican Republic by a foreign occupation army. The sensationalism about the “atrocity” of rebels killing cops and Marines was designed to mask the strafing and bombing of the working-class areas of the city to smash the revolution. Indeed, imperialism must clearly be desperate to commit such a brazen and naked act.

Crisis of Leadership

Castro and other “Communist” leaders have shown their bankruptcy in supporting the capitalist “legality” of Bosch and calling upon the imperialist-dominated United Nations to “intervene.” The absence of a truly revolutionary Dominican party to guide the working class and lead the revolution has resulted in confusion among the rebelling masses. The old-line leaders have done their best to abort the revolution and negotiate a “truce” with imperialism. The swearing-in of Boschite military leader Caamaño as “President” has been due in good part to the efforts of these leaders to channel the masses back into a “popular front” with the ruling class. The agreement of these elements to a “cease fire” even in the face of an imperialist build-up has helped disarm the revolution and facilitated further bloodbaths. The success of the revolution can be guaranteed only by the Dominican workers’ conquest of state power, under the leadership of a revolutionary party, and the establishment of a Dominican workers’ republic. All such advances reciprocally strengthen the socialist revolution in the United States and the world.