Grenada: Imperialism reforges the chains

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 34 15 November —15 December 1983

On 25 October 1983, 2,000 US marines landed on Grenada to crush the people's revolution. It was a deliberate escalation of imperialism's attack upon the struggles of the world's oppressed masses to haul themselves out of poverty, despair and death. It was a further step towards open declaration of war against the socialist countries. More immediately, by mobilising its biggest combat force since Vietnam to try and crush the advances of the Grenadan people, the US ruling class has signalled that it is readying these forces for commitment against revolutionary Nicaragua and Cuba.

As the imperial planners that visited their designs upon Grenada finish their celebrating to ponder their next moves, they can consider the sobering ferocity with which the Grenadan patriots and their Cuban comrades resisted the giant war machine. For such skill and courage in fighting to preserve their gains, on an island no bigger than the ranches Cowboy Reagan likes to go riding over, will have burned an impression into their imperialist brains — more livid than all the reels of lies they have shown us — of the ultimate price imperialism will have to pay from the anger of the progressive and revolutionary people moving into action across the globe.


On 13 March 1979 the Grenadan people led by the New Jewel Movement (NJM) threw out the British groomed stooge government of Eric Gairy. Like their neighbours on other British Caribbean islands they had seen the horrors of slavery give way to the more subtle, but ultimately just as barbaric, nightmare of colonial and neo-colonial rule, relying upon local placemen to ensure the smooth outflow of profits to the imperial metropolis. Mass unemployment prevailed: 50% on the eve of revolution; ignorance was forced on the people: less than one in five ever received secondary education; malnutrition and disease were rife: Grenada's seas teemed with fish but the people were denied the means to catch them, health care facilities were priced out of the people's reach.

The revolution unlocked the power of Grenadan labour! Together with their People's Revolutionary Government (PRG) Grenadans made what Cuban President Fidel Castro called 'a big revolution in a small island'. Free education and health care for all were introduced, and with their slogans 'Let those who toil hold the reins', 'Fight Unemployment Through Revolution' and 'Idle lands for Idle hands', unemployment was swiftly reduced and almost eradicated. In four years of construction Grenada's economy had grown by 15% and was accelerating, reaching the unrivalled 5.5% growth last year, giving the people a 7% improvement in living standards in a single year!

Throughout the neo-colonial Caribbean the working people are being made to pay for the capitalist crisis in the imperialist heartlands: production is falling and unemployment growing. Half Jamaica's youth are unemployed, welfare services are being slashed on IMF orders as puppet governments bleed their people to make profits for the transnational banks: Jamaica's debt of $2.5bn is over 40% of its total annual production and income.

In a capitalist and neo-colonial world where working people achieve only partial and temporary victories, the sight of Grenada advancing and securing its gains gave the Caribbean oppressed encouragement and heart to struggle. Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop, was cheered and loved by the masses wherever he went among the Caribbean islands. Imperialism was tormented. As the cheers grew louder, the struggles more resolute and the puppets quaked, so imperialism amplified its dirty propaganda: photos of airports, obstacle courses, 'sophisticated-barracks', 'submarine bases' (though of course lacking any visible submarine) were brandished before the capitalist press and TV who faithfully reproduced them.


Immediately upon the Grenadan revolution in 1979 the British Labour Party government formed the joint Eastern Caribbean Defence Force, elements of which trailed the US invasion force. Based in Barbados it is a policing outfit with a backbone of Royal Navy frigates, and was designed to check the spread of the mood of liberation from Grenada to other islands. The US State Department had plans for a blockade and invasion of Grenada within a week of the revolution. While the British government refused to fulfil aid commitments to Grenada, British banks gave loans to neighbouring client regimes to stockpile weapons with. US military aid in the region has multiplied sixteen fold since the 1979 Grenadan and Nicaraguan revolutions. Dummy-run invasions of Grenada were mounted by US forces, as part of exercises that included British warships: the most notorious being code-named Amber and the Amberdines held in 1981 and including a population round-up and liquidation programme. US Rear Admiral McKenzie commented that Cuba, Nicaragua and Grenada were 'practically one country' and 'a political-military problem'. Earlier this year ten British vessels headed by HMS Invincible joined the US fleet in 'Operation Readex'. The senior US commanding officer confirmed that British and US military experts were jointly studying last year's invasion of the Malvinas/Falklands. The final sequence of the assault on Grenada 'chosen by the US, from covert amphibious landings, to naval and aerial bombardment, a ringed naval exclusion zone, combined with strict censorship, shows the lessons learned.


The internal conflict within the PRG and the tragic death of Maurice Bishop and five other NJM leaders on 19 October gave imperialism the chance it had waited for. Lies, rumours and distortions were barked by the mongrel media as they were fed out by US military intelligence units and reactionary Caribbean circles. On 20 October the Cuban government declared:

‘No doctrine, no principle or position held up as revolutionary, and no internal division justifies atrocious proceedings like the physical elimination of Bishop and the outstanding group of honest and worthy leaders killed yesterday. The circumstances of the death of Bishop and his comrades must be clarified, and if they were executed in cold blood the guilty ones must receive exemplary punishment.

Imperialism will now try to make use of this tragedy and the grave errors committed by the Grenadan revolutionaries to eliminate the revolutionary process in Grenada and subject it once again to imperialist and neo-colonial domination. Only a miracle of common sense, equanimity and wisdom by the Grenadan revolutionaries and severe action by the world progressive movement could still solve the process.'

Fidel Castro called for three days of Cuban national mourning for Comrade Bishop. He hoped that revolutionaries all over the world would ‘reflect deeply, and that the concept prevail that no crime must be committed in the name of revolution and freedom.'

Cuban doctors, teachers, technicians, construction workers and troops were told to stay at their tasks in Grenada.


On 22 October the US fleet en route for Lebanon diverted to Grenada. The following day HMS Antrim sailed from the coast of Colombia to anchor in Grenadan waters. At 5.30am Tuesday 25 October US 'Operation Urgent Fury' was under way: Radio Free Grenada announced 'Grenada is under attack by foreign troops.'

The world's mightiest imperialist power, geared to spend $1bn a day on weapons, had mobilised 16,000 troops of the US Rapid Deployment Force against a People's Revolutionary Army of 1,500 soldiers, a community militia and 784 Cuban workers, all comparatively lightly armed. Peoples whose forefathers fought guns and canon with their bare hands and machetes, until they finally broke asunder the chains of slavery, were about to write a new page in the history of undaunted courage of the Caribbean people.

With the bloated confidence of the duped and backed by two aircraft carriers with over 100 fighter-bombers, the advance guard of US troops charged into Grenada as if they were riding onto a film set. Battleships pounded towns and villages, fighters bombed, helicopter gunships strafed, and heavy artillery with tanks pounded all before them. But the Yankees were stunned by the ferocity with which the Grenadan and Cuban revolutionaries fought. Three days after the initial assault one Grenadan concluded 'Only the planes can defeat us. We are holding off the troops. We are small but we are dangerous', as fighting continued in and around the capital, St Georges. A French TV crew recorded a US marine reeling from the battle who recalled the 1968 Tet offensive against US occupation forces in Vietnam. US military command panicked and called in more troops from Barbados bringing the total to over 6,000 in Grenada. On such a small island they accidentally shot each other! US Rear Admiral Metcalfe confessed they 'had to be brought in because the fierceness of the resistance was greater than we expected.' US casualty figures are deliberately falsified: some reports put the total at 150 dead and wounded from the preliminary deployment on Grenada. 12 -20 US helicopters were reported destroyed. In those areas eventually secured by US forces guerrilla tactics were employed. A dismayed marine whose Hollywood-diet had ill prepared him for the greeting that people really gave Yankee invaders sighed, 'They smile at us in the daytime, and come out and shoot at us at night.' As the police contingent from Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua, St Vincent, St Lucia, Dominica, St Kitts-Nevis, was installed in the Yankee rear, the Grenadan and Cuban fighters held the monstrous US moloch in the grip of war for seven days.


Such heroic resistance brings its own casualties, but the Grenadan people suffered far more, like their Palestinian and Lebanese brothers and sisters a year before them, from indiscriminate imperialist killing. On the second day of bombing Grenada's mental hospital was hit killing 47 patients and nurses. The US said that they did not know it was there, but Grenada has need of only one such hospital and it has been there for as long as any Grenadan can remember. After three days of battle the Grenadan ambassador to the United Nations announced 700 Grenadan dead. Latest Grenadan reports say there are 1,500 dead, the equivalent of over 2m US citizens murdered, and twice the proportion of population killed than were slain by the Nazi blitz in Britain!

Families have followed the stench of corpses looking for their dead. The US military authorities have ordered them not to recover the bodies claiming they are a health hazard. This is an attempt to prevent an accurate body count.

Hundreds of NJM activists and supporters have been hunted down, stopped at roadblocks, transferred to prison camps where there are reports of torture being used upon them.


In the years of struggle to come, the selfless sacrifice given by the Cuban workers, fighting alongside the Grenadan patriots to defend the achievements of the revolution, will be recorded and remembered as an unsurpassable example of international solidarity. Cubans were invited into Grenada to help build, the Yankees stormed in to destroy. As the US fleet loomed upon Grenada the Cuban government instructed its workers at the airfield and across the island that they 'should defend themselves if attacked by invading forces ... energetically, just as if they were in Cuba.'

US imperialism deliberately attacked the Cuban construction workers. These outstanding representatives of the Cuban revolution reported back to Fidel Castro 'Commander-in-Chief, we will carry out your orders and we will not surrender. Patria o muerte!' Lightly armed, with guns and ammunition issued to them by the Grenadan government, the Cuban workers responded to the attack: CBS news reported that 1,000 US marines had 'been stopped cold' by the Cuban resistance. For over 24 hours they held the combined US land, sea and air forces at bay. Fidel Castro paid homage: ‘they have been waging a battle for the peoples of the small countries of the world and for all the peoples of the Third World against brutal imperialist attacks. Having seen Cubans help Angola halt the march of fascist apartheid in Southern Africa, having felt the cold of Cuba steel and been scorched by the fire of the Cuban revolution in this, the first direct combat between US forces and Cuban revolutionaries, Reagan raved deliriously, 'there are Cubans in Nicaragua, Cubans in Venezuela, Cubans in Colombia', and no doubt Cubans coming out of the wallpaper!


Ronald Reagan has made a living out of reciting lines, but now this sometime-actor heads the US forces, and plays the swaggering oaf paralytic with power. Mesmerised by the lies that are fed him, Reagan scorns the truth with irritation. However, the US ruling class, like its British educators, is a calculating, ruthless pursuer of its own interests. Since 1775 they have unleashed more than 200 wars and major military clashes. Today, while they rage about so-called 'Soviet-Cuban expansionism' they take it as a natural right to have 1,500 overseas bases, and to deploy their armed forces on no fewer than 286 occasions in pursuit of foreign policy objectives since the 1946 Japanese surrender. Deception and systematic lies are an integral part of imperialism's military operations. Military intelligence officers design them, and orchestrate their delivery to, and appearance in, the media.

While the US press has lamely complained about the strict censorship imposed on it, a torrent of lies has been pumped out of the White House, US command in Grenada, and across bourgeois TVs, radios and press. First of all the US were rushing to the rescue of medical students 'trapped on the island'. These medical students had been freely visited by US and British diplomats before the invasion, assured by the Grenadan army that they were in no danger, and told they could leave if they wished to do so. In fact, the only casualties sustained by the medical students were the result of firing by US troops. The Chancellor of the medical college said in New York 'the President's information is very wrong . . . They were in no real danger whatsoever.' Then, the US and its partners were going to 'restore democracy, law and order'. Democracy as in Jamaica where the Council for Human Rights reported 113 people shot dead in the first quarter of this year, eight gunned down by police in a single week whose explanation was 'they had communist literature upon them'.

Democracy as in Dominica where opposition leaders are branded and tried as 'Libyan agents'. Restoring democracy to Grenada as in the days of Gairy who celebrated formal independence, in 1974, with a round-up of opponents, including Bishop, and the putting to flame of the NJM's solicitor's house; who went on to use his 'Mongoose Gang' to terrorise and murder striking workers and NJM supporters and who dispensed 'law and order' with the aid of Chilean army officers whose contribution to peace was training in torture techniques. 'The Mongoose Gang' freed from prison are now, under the British Governor General, resuming their previous role.

Finally, the US concluded that it went to Grenada because of 'the Cubans'. Who could forget Reagan's infamous 'Cubans': first there were 1,000 of them, then they took away 200, but still there were 1,000 left!? You would laugh if they were not human lives Reagan was fumblingly attempting to count with! And, of course, there were the endless 'pockets of resistance' that were continuously being 'mopped-up', day after day. No sooner was the island 'pacified' and the 'fighting over' than there were more 'pockets of resistance'. Big pockets for such a small island!

From the arms caches of 'sophisticated weapons' which US journalist Loren Jenkins recognised as nineteenth century colts, to the mass graves that keep disappearing the falsehoods are endless. Suffice it to say that one White House press secretary, employed to issue Presidential statements, felt so ridiculed (by his efforts to keep a straight face?) that he resigned.


Thatcher and Howe stated that the US invasion had 'freed' Grenada, Howe adding that 'the alternative was anarchy'. Britain refused to support the UN motion condemning the invasion and calling for the withdrawal of US troops. Sir Paul Scoon, Governor General and senior British representative in Grenada, supported the US attack and made a call for the immediate surrender of Grenadan resistance to the US occupation forces.

Thatcher's public argument with Reagan was a caution to US imperialism not to meddle too deeply in territories which British imperialism considers its own domain — the Commonwealth. Their dispute was nothing but the wrangling of pirates over who should possess the booty. It must be remembered that British troops have repeatedly been used against strikes and uprisings in the post-1945 Caribbean: in Belize, Guyana, Bahamas, Jamaica, Bermuda and Antigua. A joint operation was conducted with US forces against a Trinidadian insurrection in 1970. Britain has given permission to the US to install bases on Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and other islands. The stooge Caribbean policing outfit now in Grenada was British police trained.

However, it is the Labour Party which best reveals the true character of British imperialism's indignation at US 'unilateral action'. With wounded pride shadow foreign secretary Dennis Healey roared of 'a quite unpardonable humiliation of an ally'. He went on to accuse Thatcher of having 'failed in your duty to the House, failed in your duty to the British people, failed in your duty to the Commonwealth, and failed in your duty to the Palace.' That is, she failed to ensure the predominance of British capitalists' interests in the Commonwealth Caribbean. So much for the exemplary international solidarity shown the Grenadan people by the British Labour Party!


If ever there was a crime in the eyes of the British left it is to stop talking about history and theory and begin making it. Everywhere they seek to explain the agonies heaped upon the oppressed by imperialism as being a consequence of what they imagine to be the inadequacies of the revolutionary leadership of the oppressed. Their racist, chauvinist 'holier-than-thou' attitude shone like a halo above their response to the Grenada crisis and invasion. Thus the SWP:

'The great tragedy in Grenada is that four years after a small group of idealistic young left wingers seized power they realised they hadn't fundamentally changed their poor island.'

A theme shamelessly developed by their 'theoretician' and dunce Alex Callinicos 'Class exploitation survives ... Only the exploiters have changed ... The highest ideals end up in dust, ashes — and blood. And the old imperialist powers are only too ready ... to take advantage of the situation for their own ends.'

Socialist Action adopted a more subtle, priestly approach to the 'there you are, I told you so' sermon.

'Despite the paraphernalia of alleged participation democracy in Grenada, in reality the revolution has been led by a small group of leaders of the NJM. This movement has never had a congress, it does not possess the structures of internal democracy in which political disputes are settled ... The Grenada form of mass consultation . in no way amounted to mass participation in decision making.'

So there you have it: Grenadan people, NJM, the British left are decided, 'you changed nothing'; not the economy you built, not the political life you thrived on. 'You brought the imperialist house down on your own head.' But we can leave it to the RCP, gazing at Grenada across galaxies of theoretical enlightenment, to sum it all up: 

'the NJM never moved away from its middle class base and its all-class approach. Its aim was to strengthen the existing Grenadan economy — a capitalist economy totally dominated by imperialism ... Grenada was a relatively weak Third World country trying to achieve a modest degree of capitalist development ... '

Can you hear them in the Pentagon: 'O my gawd! You know what we've done, we've blown away a little gem of an example of how capitalism can work!'


These baseless slanders of the Grenadan revolution, combined with enthusiastic and open indulgence in uninformed speculation about the disputes within the NJM, do nothing to aid building solidarity with the Grenadan people, but conform entirely with the plans of British imperialism to reassert its domination over the island. Throughout the prelude to the US invasion British Mobile Land Forces in the Caribbean were put on 'alert' and held at this station for days. Today, the British state is assessing plans to replace US troops with a Commonwealth 'peace keeping force'. History abounds with examples of her British forces to keep 'the peace'. In 1969 British troops were sent by the Labour government into the Six Counties of Ireland under the guise of being ‘peace-keepers'. Understandably, having faced days of savage attacks by armed Loyalists, some in the nationalist communities felt initial relief. However, as Sean Mac Stiofain, former Provisional IRA Chief-of-Staff, pointed out, they 'would quickly realise that a colonial power does not send its army to hurry up social reforms.'

For 14 years British 'peace-keeping' troops have tortured and killed Irish nationalists fighting for self-determination and democracy. Last year, in Beirut, 'peace-keepers' were drafted in after the Sabra and Chatila massacres. This autumn, these same British troops scout the streets of Beirut and have pin-pointed targets for US naval batteries. In Britain, the self-same police that train the Caribbean police murderers —the British police — uphold the 'peace, law and order' of the ruling class by attacking black and unemployed youths and arresting those who struggle against racism and imperialism.


In the days of slavery the British would demonstrate the power of the British Empire by clamping rebellious Grenadan slaves in iron cages that prevented all movement, hanging them high in the trees above their brothers and sisters to die of thirst and despair. By invading Grenada imperialism has sought to cow the Caribbean. Yet the indomitable courage of the Grenadan and Cuban fighters rings out across the Caribbean, in the words of one of Grenada's great teachers, William Galway Donovan who learnt democracy had a fighting spirit from his Irish Fenian father and black Grenadan mother, 'Better a naked freeman than a gilded slave'. The gilded slaves Seaga of Jamaica, Adams of Barbados, Williams of Dominica, Scoon and the others who blessed the Yankee guns, are now stripped bare for all the Caribbean masses to see as their hands, dripping with the blood of the Grenadan and Cuban martyrs, reach out for their dollars' reward, while the fallen have covered themselves in glory.

For its exercise in brutality the US ruling class is in delight with itself, but thousands have demonstrated across the USA in support of Grenada, Cuba and Nicaragua. Today, in the USA imperialism is generating the forces that will link arms with the global struggle against imperialism: 6 in 10 black youths are unemployed; a third of all black and Hispanic Americans live in dire poverty; a government health report states that US non-whites 'exhibit the low birthweight problems of residents of Third World countries', a black baby is twice as likely to die in its first year as a white baby. One third of the US army are black! Let the imperialist strategists reflect on Ho Chi Minh's words spoken in 1951, 25 years before the Vietnamese people finally beat imperialism:

'Today it is a case of the grasshopper pitted against the elephant. But tomorrow the elephant will have its guts ripped out ...'

Hands Off Grenada!

No British Plans for Grenada!

US Troops Out!

Self Determination for the Grenadan People!

Trevor Rayne