In 1965, the workers and farmers of the Dominican Republic poured into the streets, arms in hand, with the goal of creating a truly democratic, independent country. Under the leadership of the heroic Francisco Caamaño, they successfully held off U.S.-backed right-wing forces, and even members of the U.S. military itself for some time, although unfortunately, they were eventually defeated.
The Dominican Republic was colonized by the Spanish after Christopher Columbus landed there in 1492. Other than a few brief stints under French, Haitian and independent self-rule, the country effectively belonged to Spain until 1865. It was in that year that Dominican rebels finally won lasting independence after years of waging a “War of Restoration.” But this independence did not last long, as the country traded one colonial power for another.
In 1905, the United States government took over the administration of the country’s customs authority after several European powers sent warships to the capital city of Santo Domingo to demand repayment of loans given to the earlier government of Ulises ‘Lilís’ Heureaux. The U.S. Bureau of Insular Affairs gained receivership of Dominican customs and the U.S. became the sole foreign creditor of the country. It was through this act that the United States laid the ground work for turning the Dominican Republic into a neocolony, under its complete economic control.
Over the next few years, as various sections of the local rulers battled for control of the Dominican Republic, U.S. capitalists poured money into the country’s sugar cane industry. In 1914, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson demanded that a president be chosen, saying his country would impose one otherwise.
Heureaux-Juan Isidro Jimenes, a wealthy capitalist who made his money in the tobacco industry, was elected but faced demands that he appoint a director of public works and financial adviser from the United States and create a new military under the command of U.S. officers. The Dominican Congress refused these demands and began proceedings to impeach Jimenes. Desiderio Arias, the Minister of War, staged a coup in 1916, which the U.S. used as a pretext
On May 15, 1916, U.S. Marines landed in the Dominican Republic. After a brief period of fighting, they controlled the entire country. The Dominican Congress elected a President, but he was replaced by a U.S. military dictatorship after he refused to meet the demands of the U.S. For the next several years censorship was intense, critics of the foreign dictatorship were arrested, and individual peasants were forced off their lands to make way for the expansion of huge sugar plantations.
Throughout the U.S. occupation, bands of peasants from the eastern part of the country called gavilleros waged a guerrilla war against the occupiers. The U.S. created a National Police force, which still exists to this day, to fight the guerrillas.
The U.S. occupiers finally withdrew in 1924, but only after insuring all laws passed under their dictatorship would stay intact and control of Dominican customs would remain in their hands.
In May of 1930, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, the leader of the ‘Dominican National Guard’ created under the U.S. occupation and self-described ‘Number One Anticommunist’, took power in a sham election. For the next three decades, this admirer of Hitler and Mussolini would rule over the country with U.S. backing, oppressing the population while enriching himself.
In 1961, the U.S. government became concerned that Trujillo’s brutal rule would unite the workers and farmers of the Dominican Republic against him, prompting a revolution similar to the one that had occurred in nearby Cuba a few years earlier. On May 30, Trujillo was assassinated under the direction of the CIA.
The U.S. government then maneuvered Joaquín Balaguer, a protégé of Trujillo, into power. Popular pressure soon forced him into exile and brought new elections.
In those elections, which took place in 1962, Juan Bosch, a liberal poet and long time enemy of Trujillo was elected president.
Bosch carried out minor land distribution and nationalizations aimed at stemming the revolutionary aspirations of the Dominican Republic’s workers and farmers, but also banned communist parties. But despite his allegiance to maintain capitalism, his refusal to unquestioning go along with the plans of the U.S. government was enough reason for them to remove him. A neocolony, even a capitalist one, attempting to determine its own future was simply intolerable.
In September of 1963, right wing officers in the military forced Bosch from power with full U.S. backing.
The revolution begins
After Bosch’s ouster, the U.S. government helped set up a military dictatorship under the guise of a ‘civilian triumvirate.’
This dictatorship was lead by General Elías Wessin y Wessin of the Centro de Entrenamiento de las Fuerzas Armadas (Armed Forces Training Center or “CEFA”) – a 2,000 strong force of military specialists, originally established under
Trujillo. Among its other repressive policies, the dictatorship proclaimed that “The Communist doctrine, Marxist-
Leninist, Castroite, or whatever it is called, is now outlawed.”
Workers continually carried out strikes in protest of the dictatorship until finallyon April 24, 1965, a group of soldiers, led by Colonel Francisco Caamaño, rose up and took control of the government. The soldiers and their supporters, known as constitutionalistas for their support of the constitution which had been scrapped upon Bosch’s overthrow, took to the streets. Before long, they had seized all major television and radio stations, as well as the National Palace.
In the earliest stages, the demands of the constitutionalistas were simple: the restoration of the constitution and the
return of the elected president. Instead of meeting the demands, the CEFA launched a counter attack, in which many workers and farmers were killed.
As the constitutionalistas took steps to defend themselves, through distributing arms to the general population and
organizing organs of defense, they began to transform society. Through their struggle, the workers and farmers began to discover that the only way to make the country truly independent and democratic would be to take control of things themselves and break from the grips of imperialism.
Unwilling to risk another revolution in ‘their backyard,’ the U.S. imperialist rulers decided to act.
Initially, the U.S. established a military presence in the Dominican Republic by setting up a landing strip it claimed it would use to evacuate U.S. citizens from the country. As the rightists of the CEFA suffered defeat after defeat (resulting in their eventual withdrawal to their base in San Isidro), the U.S. beefed up its presence, sending in 42,000 soldiers and blockading the country with 41 warships – again under the pretense of ‘protecting foreign citizens,’ even though none had been killed or even injured.
The U.S. was then pressured some of its puppet governments throughout Latin America send in troops to help with the counterrevolution. On top of the tens of thousands of U.S. forces, several thousand arrived from Brasil, Honduras, Paraguay, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and El Salvador.
Stating the plain truth, Caamaño was quoted as saying “The war would be already over if the U.S. had not intervened.”
The invaders were able to bring an end to the revolutionary government after a few months of fighting, mainly by cutting off the constitutionalistas in the capital through the creation of a fake, supposedly neutral “safety corridor.”
Despite the fact that the revolutionary forces had been forced from power, resistance to the occupation continued for the duration, until the U.S. forces decided to allow supposedly “democratic” elections in 1966, in order to alleviate some of the anger of the Dominican people.
Joaquín Balaguer was returned to power in the fraudulent elections of 1966. Shortly thereafter a new constitution was put in place that officially guaranteed some democratic rights, though it was more often than not disregarded.
Balaguer was “elected” again in 1970 and 1974, both times after his armed thugs forced the main opposition to withdraw from the elections.
Balaguer, whose brutality rivaled that of his teacher Trujillo, sold off the country piecemeal to the highest bidder. Under his rule, paramilitary death squads targeted the slum-dwelling workers and farmers that made up the base of the revolutionary movement. His henchmen destroyed popular movements and workers organizations while U.S.-based capitalists bought up land and local industries.
As the Wall Street Journal reported on September 9, 1971, “the [U.S.] embassy has done nothing publicly to dissociate itself from the terror. The U.S. continues to provide substantial aid, training, equipment, and arms, to the Dominican police and army.”
In 1975, Juan Bosch correctly stated “This country is not pro-American, it is United States property.”
After the revolutionary government was brought to an end, Francisco Caamaño came under attack. After a series of threats on his life, he was violently attacked by armed thugs at the Hotel Matum in Santiago. Soon after, he fled the country, landing first in England, and later, revolutionary Cuba.
In 1973, after years of staying off the radar, Caamaño returned to the Dominican Republic by boat with a band
of rebels who planned to start up a nationwide movement that would lead to the overthrow the hated Balaguer and the establishment of an independent, democratic republic.
The rebels quickly made their way to mountains. From there, they aimed to gradually link up with workers and farmers across the country and carry out a nationwide revolution. Unfortunately, things did not work out as planned. After a series of initial mishaps and weeks of brave fighting, Caamaño was martyred by Balaguer’s repressive forces on February 16, 1973.
Today, Caamaño is a hero to the toiling Dominican masses, who see in him the sacrifice and struggle desperately needed to completely the tasks originally set out upon in 1965.
The struggle continues
Today, the Dominican Republic is not much better than it was under the rule of Balaguer, and in many ways, it’s much worse.
Politically motivated murders by the repressive forces of the state and paramilitary thugs are the norm. Prisons are
absolute hellholes and suspects are held over fires and smothered by police to elicit confessions. The situation for Haitians, most of whom come to work for slave wages on sugar plantations, are even worse, with many being beaten, raped, jailed and even killed.
Women, who make up most of the workers in the ‘free trade zones’ are often forced to work long shifts for pennies and are frequently sexually abused by their bosses. If they become pregnant, most are fired. Overtime is often mandatory, and doors are chained shut so workers cannot leave.
Workers across the country are fired, and even physically attacked, for attempting to form or join unions. Workers with known affiliations to unions have been blacklisted and some businesses refuse to recognize unions outright.
Around 30 percent of the population of the Dominican Republic live under the official poverty line, eking out a meager existence on less than $2 (USD) a day. One in ten Dominicans dwells in extreme poverty, living on even less. One in five Dominicans of working age is unemployed. Nearly one out of three workers under the age of 24 is unemployed.
There is only one doctor per every 949 people. Many lack access to clean water. Power outages lasting several hours occur on a regular basis.
Forty-seven of every 1,000 children born in the Dominican Republic die before reaching their first birthday. Tens
of thousands of children work in sweatshops, on plantations and as prostitutes. Over 15 percent of the population cannot read or write.
The only future that millions of Dominicans see is through immigration to another country, usually the United States.
Revolution is the only solution
An alternative to participating in elections is needed to solve the immense problems of the Dominican Republic.
The first and most important task is to complete the tasks of the 1965 revolution and free the country from the domination of the U.S. imperialists by any means necessary.
As an immediate outgrowth of that, the oppressed and exploited masses must fight to take power and organize a
truly democratic political and economic system. In other words, the working class must rule, instead of the U.S. capitalists ruling through their local agents. It is only under such a system that the issues facing the toiling masses of the Dominican Republic can properly be addressed.
In 1978 the Saur Revolution swept across the central Asian country of Afghanistan uprooting backwards social and property relations and liberating women from domestic slavery, abuse and extreme oppression.
Afghanistan is a country with a long and complicated history. Throughout the years, it came under the influence of many different groups, from the Kushans to the Iranians to the Greeks to the Mongols.
The Durrani empire was established in 1747, with a man of Pashtun ethnicity named Ahmed Shah Durrani at its head. Besides a very short period in 1929 when a Khan named Bacha-i-Saqa briefly overthrew the government and named himself emir, every Afghan leader belonged to Ahmed Shah Durrani’s tribal confederation.
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the people of Afghanistan fought against the British imperialists several times resulting in various parts of the country falling under British control.
The borders of modern Afghanistan resulted from a combination of of those battles and competition between the British and Russian Empires.
In 1921, after army leader Amanullah Khan led a successful uprising, Afghanistan formally won its independence from the British.
In 1933, Mohammed Zahir Shah became king after his father was assassinated. He instituted a few reforms, such as limited education for women, but also showed great indifference towards the country’s toilers, as could be expected.
While infrastructure crumbled and famine lead to thousands of starvation deaths, Zahir Shah used the country’s
resources to have castles built for himself in Kabul and Italy.
Zahir Shah ruled until 1973, when he was overthrown in a bloodless coup led by his cousin Mohammed Daoud Khan.
Instead of naming himself king, Daoud broke tradition and proclaimed Afghanistan a republic, with himself as president. He was originally backed by Parcham, a reformist faction of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan
(PDPA), because he promised to introduce a number of progressive, democratic reforms.
Instead, Daoud’s rule was marked by increasing repression, including the arrests and executions of numerous revolutionaries and the closure of the newspapers of both the Parcham and the more revolutionary Khalq factions of the PDPA.
The factions of the PDPA, which formed in 1965 and split from each other two years later, finally reunified in 1977, with the encouragement of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
The Saur Revolution
In late 1977, students and workers in the capital city of Kabul rose up against the oppressive Daoud government, but were put down by the police. After the rebellion, Daoud had several members of the PDPA jailed.
In January, 1978, another uprising broke out as thousands of Afghans demanded the release of the jailed PDPA members. The police were unable to put down the rebellion and so the army was called in to smash it.
A few months later, in March, Mir Akbar Khyber (also known as “Kaibar”), a leading member of Parcham, was murdered by government forces. Tens of thousands of Afghans gathered soon after to listen to speeches delivered by leaders of the PDPA. Daoud was frightened by this display of popular support for the PDPA,and ordered its leaders imprisoned.
By the time the Daoud’s forces had got around to jailing one PDPA leader, and putting another under house arrest,
the Saur Revolution had already broken out.
PDPA members in the military, with the support of tens of thousands of others, began an uprising against the Daoud
government on April 28, 1978.
The uprising started at the Kabul International Airport and spread to the capital of Kabal within twenty-four hours. It
was there, on April 28, that revolutionary forces stormed the presidential palace and overthrew Mohammed Daoud
Upon taking power, the revolutionaries took to the radio to declare, “For the first time, power has come to the people.
The last remnants of the imperialist tyranny, despotism and the royal dynasty have been ended.”
Two days later, hundreds of thousands of Afghans marched through the streets waving red flags and celebrating
the victory of the Saur Revolution.
The revolutionaries moved quickly to establish the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, with a Revolutionary Council at its head, and a provisional democratic program that guaranteed the legalization of trade unions, equal rights for women and the separation of church and state.
In the years leading up to the Saur Revolution Afghanistan was a reactionary nightmare for the large majority of its residents – especially women, who were fundamentally the property of their fathers or husbands to be bought and sold.
Prior to the Saur Revolution, there were only 35,000 workers employed in manufacturing in Afghanistan, while
there were some 250,000 mullahs who existed as parasites living off the poor masses.
There were no railroad tracks or highways to speak of and malnutrition and starvation was the norm.
Only 10 percent of men and 2 percent of women could read.
The average person lived just 40 years, and half of all children died before reaching the age of five.
In contrast, in the neighboring Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan nearly 100 percent of the population was
literate and life expectancy was 70.
The revolutionary Afghan government began carrying out revolutionary measures to combat the problems facing the toilers of Afghanistan almost immediately.
The first step was to construct schools and hospitals across the country, and to train doctors and teachers.
As Saira Noorani, a female Afghan doctor, recalled in the Observer in 2001, “Life was good … Every girl could go to high school and university. We could go wherever we wanted and wear what we liked.”
The revolutionary leadership also canceled the massive debts that the poor peasants owed to the loan sharks and
They also began a sweeping land reform policy, to take arable land out of the hands of the exploiting mullahs – who
controlled 42 percent of it, and necessary irrigation systems, and put them into the hands of the peasantry that actually did the farming.
In doing this they met huge resistance from the mullahs who saw their easy ride on the backs on the poor coming to an end.
The mullahs raised reactionary counterrevolutionary gangs that carried out vicious acts of terrorism and economic
Despite this, the revolutionary government was still able to redistribute land to 200,000 landless peasants (in a country of 20 million).
But it was the revolution’s establishment of equal rights for women – which included the establishment of compulsory schooling for young girls, and free literacy classes for adult women – that truly raised opposition from the mullahs,
khans and strong Islamic clergy.
The reactionary ‘mujahedin’ (or holy warriors – the name that the bands of the khans, mullahs and Islamic clergy
gave themselves) that lead the counterrevolution sought to preserve their positions in society. These position rested upon a backwards system in which women were the private property of men, where local laws only allowed married men access to land and water – with more wives meaning more of those resources, and where a price was literally put on each bride.
In these reactionaries the U.S. capitalist ruling elite saw an ally against the spread of revolution and the overthrow of capitalism internationally and Soviet Union itself, which bordered Afghanistan to the north.
It didn’t take the U.S. imperialists long to began aiding the mujahedin secretly through the CIA, sending them money, guns, bombs, advisors, special agents and the like.
On top of this, the reactionary capitalist governments in Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, along with the fraudulent bureaucrats that controlled China, were also aiding the counterrevolutionaries.
As the armed counterrevolution grew, with literally tons of aid pouring in from the CIA, China, Pakistan, Egypt and
Saudi Arabia, Revolutionary Defense Groups were formed in Afghanistan, with the participation of large numbers of
women who sought to defend the rights they had gained.
At the same time, the revolutionary government requested military assistance from the USSR.
The bureaucratic leadership of the USSR first sent only military advisors before finally being pressured by the reality of imperialist-backed counterrevolution at the gates of the Central Asian Soviet Republics to send in some 100,000 troops.
While revolutionary Afghanistan’s army and popular militias, with the assistance of soldiers from the USSR, were more or less able to beat back the counterrevolutionaries for ten years, horrendous atrocities were still carried out.
Whenever the reactionaries of the mujahedin were able to get a hold of a soldier from the USSR or a teacher (who committed the “crime” of teaching a women to read), they would frequently cut up, skin or behead them, or some combination thereof. Other times they would drug them and imprison them, so that they could be brutally tortured later.
These savage reactionaries – which included amongst their ranks Osama bin Laden – were the people Democratic U.S.
President Jimmy Carter gave billions of dollars to, and the same scum Republican U.S. President Ronald Reagan hailed as “freedom fighters.”
In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union.
Under the guise of “democratic reform” and “openness,” Gorbachev and his cohorts sought to settle with the imperialists – who were openly driving for the destruction of the USSR – and allow an increase in capitalist penetration.
On July 20, 1987, the USSR, then beginning to crumble under the weight of internal contradiction and the suicidal policies of its bureaucratic leadership, treacherously announced that it planned to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan.
By 1989 the task was complete, leaving the revolutionary Afghan government to stand on its own against a counterrevolutionary band receiving major backing from several governments.
At the time, there were over a quarter of a million women working, and another 15,000 women serving in the army and militias in Afghanistan. Women made up half of the doctors and university teachers in the country, and more than 500,000 were enrolled in schools and literacy programs. For the first time in the history of Afghanistan, women could walk around in the cities without having to wear a veil.
All of these women were prime targets for the reactionary mujahedin which, emboldened by the withdraw of the Soviets, were now stepping up their attacks.
In response to this serious threat, the PDPA set out to arm and train all of its female members.
More civil war
Despite the withdraw of the USSR, the revolutionary forces of Afghanistan were able to hold their own against the mujahedin reactionaries for some time.
In fact, the Afghan Army, which had been trained by the USSR’s military and by participating in several battles,
actually began to perform better after the USSR’s withdraw.
The militias too did well against the counterrevolutionaries. They were able to successfully defend, for instance, the Afghan city of Jalalabad from the onslaught of mujahedin bands operating out of nearby CIA bases in Pakistan.
But the revolutionary forces, demoralized by the counterrevolutionary destruction of the USSR and under a de facto oil blockade from Russia’s new capitalist government, were increasingly fractured and divided. By 1992 they could no longer hold out.
The counterrevolution succeeds
By April, 1992, the mujahedin entered the capital city of Kabu, and President Mohammad Najibullah was
A “coalition” government was then set up, made up of elements of the mujahedin – which was beginning to split into different factions – some PDPA members, and some army officers.
Over the next four years control of the government would shift back and forth between different factions of the mujahedin, but one thing remained the same throughout: all the progressive measures introduced by the revolution
were steadily being overturned.
In 1996, one particularly reactionary Islamic fundamentalist militia, the Taliban, was able to take control of Kabul, which was devastated by years of war.
One of the first acts the Taliban carried out was the forceful removal of Mohammad Najibullahfrom the UN compound he had been staying in. They then proceeded to publically castrate him before hanging him and his brother from a lamp post in downtown Kabul where they were left for three days.
The rule of the Taliban, which enjoyed the support of the U.S. imperialists that funded it as a part of the mujahedin early on, was notoriously oppressive.
Upon taking power, these reactionary religious extremists threw acid in the faces of women whose faces were uncovered, closed down schools and created groups of young thugs that went around brutally beating any woman who so much as bared her wrist.
Under their rule, women were forcefully secluded in their homes (where all windows had to be painted black). Women were forced to wear a burqa which covered them from head to toe, and were forbidden to be educated after the age of 8 (and prior to that, they could only learn about the Muslim holy book, the Qu’ran).
In 2001, the U.S. imperialists used the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon as justification to invade Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban, which had refused to bow to their demands.
Today, Afghanistan remains a horribly oppressive country, occupied by imperialist forces and headed by a U.S. puppet leader.
The following is a copy of a response I wrote to a recent email I received asking how I could support Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, a “communist killer,” and the Cuban Revolution. It has been edited slightly for form.
Che was a indeed a revolutionary. That’s what enabled him to be such a great person. He fought for the liberation of humankind from exploitation and oppression.
Che didn’t kill “thousands” of people. Not even his enemies (at least those who are at all serious or have any idea what Che did during his life) claim that.
At most, he killed some people in the course of revolutionary wars. A revolution is not a tea party. It’s necessary to take up the gun to abolish the gun.
Che’s enemies also condemn him for overseeing the popular trials after the Cuban Revolution that brought the torturers, rapists and murderers of the dictatorship to justice. A revolution is not a bed of roses.
The Cuban Revolution was fought against the dictatorship of the Butcher Batista, a U.S.-sponsored monster who was responsible for the torture and deaths of tens of thousands of Cubans. It was a popular revolution that drew the support of the large majority of Cubans. After a hard fought war against the dictator’s army, Batista’s rule was finally brought down by a general strike of all workers across Cuba.
Here’s a video of Fidel’s arrival in Havana
You speak of Cuba as the “Pearl of the Caribbean,” but it was more commonly known as the “Whorehouse of the Caribbean.” Most of the country was owned by U.S. businesses. It was the playground of rich people from the U.S. and the Mafia. Many beaches were off limits to Black Cubans. Today they are open to all. Only 54% of the population could read (as compared to 100% now), life expectancy was only 55.8 years (as compared to 78 now), and infant mortality was 60 (as compared to 5.8 now, a number surpassing even the United States, the richest country in the world).
The Cuban Revolution ended the rule of Batista and the dominance of imperialism over Cuba. Farms and businesses owned by U.S. corporations were taken under the control of the Cubans who worked them, the houses of the rich were given to the servants that cleaned and maintained them, and everyone was given an equal opportunity to advance together.
Cuba has been harassed and attacked by the United States since the beginning of the Revolution. There have been over 600 attempts on Fidel Castro’s life. There was a military invasion of Cuba. There were threats, bombings that killed innocent people, sabotage, and more.
Even today, the U.S. continues its decades-long blockade of Cuba, despite the fact that the vast majority of the countries of the world have condemned it 17 times again in the United Nations (source).
Despite all this, the Cuban Revolution has eliminated illiteracy, homelessness and unemployment, and has brought quality education and healthcare to all.
It is because of this, and more, that the Cuban Revolution still has the support of the majority of Cubans (as can be seen in the following photos) and millions of others around the world.
Where’s the picture of a banner that says “4 more years of Bush?” Where are the pictures of a million people coming to hear Bill Clinton speak? How about graffiti that says “Long live Lyndon Johnson?”
Those Cubans who attack the Cuban Revolution (and make up crazy stories about it like your “Che ran over a child for no reason,” “Fidel Castro eats babies,” or whatever other nonsense they can come up with) are the uninformed and the rich, mostly white Cubans who fled Cuba after the Revolution because they were afraid they’d have to work together with the rest of the population instead of continuing to live on the labor of others. The latter are commonly known in Cuba as los gusanos (the worms).
The Cuban Revolution was by and for the toiling majority. It took the power out of the hands of the U.S. businesses and their Cubans assistants and put it in the hands of the masses.
Che fought in the Cuban Revolution and in revolutionary struggles in the Congo and Bolivia. He gave his life for the liberation of humanity. This is why he is hailed by millions upon millions of people around the world while the butcher Batista is scorned or forgotten.
If you’re really interested in the facts you should do some research. Relying on second-hand stories from people who are hostile to Che and the Cuban Revolution is no way to find out the truth.
Here is the real story of Che (it’s short and to the point).
Here is a site that shows how Cuba compares with the rest of the world in areas like poverty, literacy, healthcare, education, etc. You can see that Cuba surpasses them all.
I’d also recommend the DVD “Fidel: The Untold Story.”