The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

The Invasion of Grenada:
Gunboat Diplomacy, Once again

Oct 31, 1983

On October 25, U.S. military forces began invading the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada. Within a few days, over 6,000 troops were admitted to be on the island, and perhaps twice this many back-up personnel were stationed on Navy ships off the coast.

The immediate reasons given by the Reagan Administration for the invasion were patent lies. Imperialism may often have used the pretext of its citizens to engage a war it wanted, but it’s clearly never been very concerned about its students abroad in other circumstances. Furthermore, it was apparent that the U.S. students were never endangered, or at any rate, not until U.S. troops opened up fire, strafing and bombing the island. No one could believe that, as Reagan first claimed, Grenada itself posed a military threat to the Caribbean allies of the U.S. One of the smallest countries in the world, Grenada has no air force nor navy; and its army numbers less than 2,000 poorly armed people. As far as the few small warehouses, full of light weapons, supposedly destined for the guerillas of Central America – the guerillas have been able to carry on their struggle without using Grenada for a supply house to Central America – geographically an absurd proposition anyway.

What about the several dozen Russians and 783 Cubans, (which number the State Department finally acceded to, when Castro produced his records) – what can those numbers possibly mean when compared with the tens upon tens of thousands of troops and sailors the U.S. has stationed all over the Caribbean and Central America?

It was clearly not for security or military reasons, but rather for political reasons, that the U.S. invaded Grenada and toppled its government.

An Example without Risk

Grenada had shown that a poor country could succeed in getting rid of a dictator supported by imperialism, when the New Jewel Movement ousted Eric Gairy in 1979. Furthermore, Grenada demonstrated how even a very small nation could stand up to the threats of the most powerful imperialism in the world, using aid from Cuba and the Soviet Union to take a distance from imperialism.

Moreover, Grenada made this demonstration, at a time when there was increased social and political ferment in many countries of Central America. In several countries of the region, there are growing guerilla struggles against U.S.-supported regimes. In El Salvador, in particular, the guerilla forces seem to be making gains in their fight. Of course, it was not just Grenada which encouraged these other struggles. The Sandinistas came to power in Nicaragua in the same year as the NJM in Grenada, after toppling the U.S.’s henchman, Somoza. The existence of two such revolutionary regimes, friends of Cuba, reinforced the idea that imperialism could be defeated.

Reagan took advantage of the opportunity created by the coup against Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, and his subsequent execution, to order the invasion of the island.

By invading Grenada and overthrowing the government there, U.S. imperialism has not only destroyed a regime that was slightly troublesome to it, in its own right. The crushing of Grenada has also served as a warning to all peoples of Central America, and, above all, to the Nicaraguans. It has demonstrated that imperialism is not going to allow one after another of the regimes it supports in the region to be overthrown and replaced by governments which take a distance from it and even establish friendly relations with Cuba and the USSR. The invasion has shown that, even if imperialism had been forced to accept the existence of the Castro regime in Cuba for 25 years now, this does not mean that it might not intervene against other regimes it is hostile toward.

Moreover, Reagan is confronted with domestic political problems which could have led him to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the coup against Bishop.

The high death toll in the Beirut bomb attack had caused many people in the U.S. to question once again whether or not the Marines should be in Lebanon at all. As public opinion polls showed strong support for a U.S. withdrawal from Lebanon, many Democratic politicians indicated their intention to make U.S. involvement in Lebanon into an election issue.

In this situation, certainly Reagan felt he needed a quick foreign policy victory to obscure the problems in Lebanon, or even to reverse the opposition to his Lebanon policy. Maybe the invasion of Grenada looked like a way to shore up his own political situation.

Gunboat Diplomacy – Once again

But no matter what the immediate reasons were that caused Reagan to order U.S. forces in, there is something else more fundamental involved: the invasion of Grenada is an indication that imperialism remains imperialism.

This invasion is the first time since the Viet Nam War that large numbers of U.S. combat troops have been sent to topple the government of another country. After the debacle of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, many people in the United States believed that the U.S. either could no longer resort to direct military intervention, or would no longer resort to intervention in other countries.

The stance of imperialism, itself, reinforced this impression. In the years following the Vietnam War, the U.S. and the other imperialist powers hesitated to engage openly in gunboat diplomacy. Of course, they continued to prop up dictators and military regimes in the underdeveloped countries, to use them to impose the imperialist order on their own countries. And imperialism used a certain number of the strongest allied regimes, such as Israel and South Africa, to impose its order on whole areas of the world. It even used China to help police the Southeast Asian region; and it let the USSR crack down on the struggles in Afghanistan.

In the period of so-called detente, imperialism didn’t send its own troops to directly intervene even when loyal dictators it had supported for many years, like the Shah of Iran and General Somoza of Nicaragua, were deposed in revolutionary upheavals. Even when many of its own diplomatic personnel were taken hostage and held for well over a year by the new Iranian regime, the U.S. seemed paralyzed and only mounted a small, and as it turned out, a spectacularly unsuccessful rescue mission. These events gave some people the impression that for one reason or another, imperialism had renounced the use of direct military intervention by its own troops.

With the invasion of Grenada, the U.S. has now declared to the entire world that the period when it hesitated to use its own forces to intervene is over. The Grenada invasion is a warning to the peoples of all the poor countries of the world that imperialism is once again ready to directly attack them, if they fail to do its bidding.

This return to “gunboat diplomacy” should not come as a surprise to anyone. The truly surprising thing is that imperialism hesitated for several years following the Vietnam War to use its traditional methods. From the time when the first imperialist powers were beginning to establish their domination over the poor nations and peoples of the world, they have relied on violence, invasions and wars to achieve their aims. The economic domination by imperialists has always been enforced through the most brutal use of military power. This has never really stopped being the case.

The economic crisis that has gripped the whole world since 1973 is now making the conditions of life intolerable for many millions of people. The situation in the poor countries may quickly become much more explosive than it has been up until now. In Latin America, there is already a growing social and political ferment on a wide scale that is caused at least in part by the economic crisis.

In this kind of situation, imperialism can have only one response – direct, massive military intervention. To all those people who might have thought that the U.S. imperialism was no longer able to use its own forces where it wanted, the invasion of Grenada made it clear – even if only symbolically – that it is ready and able to do so. The invasion of Grenada is U.S. imperialism’s declaration of readiness to return to gunboat diplomacy, just as the British invasion of the Falkland Islands, and the French intervention in Chad were similar declarations by the lesser imperialist powers.

Preparation for the People of the U.S.

In order to be free to use its own forces to intervene anywhere in the world, imperialism needs to have the support of its own population. U.S. imperialism needs to have millions of young men here in the U.S. who are ready to be sent anywhere, at any time, to fight anyone. And it needs to have the middle and working class layers of the population here willing to pay heavier taxes, to accept other economic sacrifices, and to tolerate restrictions on their own civil liberties – all things that are normally required in times of war.

Imperialism has stepped up its efforts to prepare us for war for some time now. Every event is used in this way. The deaths of 250 marines in Beirut are being used to whip up a patriotic hysteria: we are being called upon to honor the marines who were killed as heroes, to look on their deaths as necessary sacrifices in the “cause of freedom” and the “American Way”. We hear that we all must be prepared to defend “our way of life” all over the world. The recent decision to issue draft cards to all registrants is in fact another kind of war propaganda, directed at young people in particular.

The Grenada invasion is an opportunity for imperialism to make the population here accept future military interventions and wars. The government was very prudent in selecting Grenada as the target for its first direct and open military intervention since the Viet Nam War. The weakness of the forces opposing U.S. troops in Grenada makes it more possible for imperialism to have a quick, cheap victory there, just as Britain had in the Falklands. Provided nothing very big goes wrong, the Grenada invasion can be used to encourage people here to give up some of the misgivings they developed about U.S. military interventions during the war in Viet Nam.

To the extent that people in the U.S. accept the government’s propaganda, and go along with the rationale behind the Grenada invasion, imperialism will feel free to engage in other, much bigger and more costly military interventions and adventures in the future; first, directed against the peoples of the poor countries under the domination of imperialism, but finally one day against the people of the USSR, in a more catastrophic world war than humanity has ever seen.

U.S. imperialism has been making use of the Grenada invasion, and even the events in Lebanon, in order to reinforce the picture of the Soviet Union as the ultimate enemy of the U.S. We are being bombarded with the idea that the Soviet Union and its surrogates stand behind every force that imperialism identifies as an enemy of the U.S.

There is a reason for this. The world economic crisis could cause such widespread social upheaval that imperialism will some day be faced with the need to intervene in many different places in the world all at the same time. Under these circumstances, imperialism would most likely prefer to fight one big general war against the USSR, rather than many smaller, but very costly, long, increasingly unpopular and difficult-to-win wars.

When U.S. imperialism claims that the USSR stands behind every enemy it sends its troops to fight against, it is an indication that imperialism knows that one day it will decide to confront the USSR directly. So it prepares the population of the U.S., even now, for this eventuality.

To the extent that people here accept the propaganda today about Grenada, they leave imperialism freer to carry them down the road toward more military interventions, more Viet Nams, and maybe at the end of the road, to the nuclear holocaust of a World War III.