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

40 Years Ago:
The U.S. Army Invades Grenada

Nov 13, 2023

This article is translated from the November 4 issue #1315 of Combat Ouvrier (Workers Fight), the paper of comrades in Guadeloupe and Martinique, two islands that are French overseas departments in the Caribbean.

In the early morning of October 25, 1983, several thousand U.S. soldiers landed on the small Caribbean island nation of Grenada, north of Trinidad.

It was a large-scale invasion lasting eight days. Around 7,000 American soldiers joined by several hundred troops from six Caribbean nations intervened by land. With 10,000 Marines patrolling at sea, the invasion force included helicopters and rapid deployment units such as Navy SEALS trained to intervene by land, air, and sea. The 1,500 armed Grenadian fighters and several hundred Cubans could not hold out for long, even if they were ready to “resist until death.” U.S. president Ronald Reagan launched this intervention with the open lie that he needed to “liberate” 1000 American citizens there, to “liberate the Grenadian population from dictatorship,” and to “restore order.”

Grenada had all of 110,000 inhabitants in 1983. A military regime had held power there since 1979, when leader Maurice Bishop overthrew Eric Gairy’s dictatorship. Bishop was appreciated by the population. His government ran more democratically than its predecessor. He gave poor people access to education and free health care. But Grenadians did not have a way to control his regime.

Conflicts between ruling cliques led to Bishop’s assassination on October 19, 1983. Did the U.S. prepare it? The question stands.

That day, big demonstrations formed to free Bishop while his opponents held him. But his supporters were captured, and he was executed. A military vehicle also fired at demonstrators, killing several.

This instability gave an opportunity for the U.S. to intervene against the people of this island who had been escaping U.S. domination. The previous Gairy dictatorship—marked by illiteracy, poverty, and the lack of civic freedoms—suited the U.S. But when Bishop took power, the U.S. refused economic aid to Grenada. Bishop got aid from Cuba and the USSR. It was the middle of the Cold War between American imperialism and the USSR, and hardly more than 20 years since U.S. defeat in Cuba. American imperialism found it was unthinkable for another Caribbean territory, no matter how small, to side with the Soviet bureaucracy.

But the population supported Bishop’s regime, and the U.S. army couldn’t easily intervene. After October 19, the population was shocked and morally disarmed. A breach opened.

So, Reagan did not send soldiers to shoot Grenadians in order to “liberate” them! And not just to deal with an alleged Russian-Cuban military base which was supposedly able to threaten the USA because of rapprochement between the Grenadian military government and Fidel Castro.

No, the expedition to Grenada was the U.S.’s way to teach a lesson to all the peoples of the Caribbean, and beyond.

The U.S. intended to control the Americas directly. In the midst of the Cold War, the U.S showed its strength. There would be no new Cuba in the region. And the invasion was also a warning to Nicaragua, then in revolution, and to guerrillas of Latin America. This warning intended to discourage all those who were tempted to stand up to U.S. imperialism.

And, only eight years after the defeat in Vietnam, the victory of the U.S. over Grenada was also a way to restore its image—a way to make the American people accept and prepare for future military expeditions.