Revolution to the rhythm of merengue

Wednesday, April 24, 1996 - 10:00

By Stephen Marks

SANTO DOMINGO — Four left-wing parties in the Dominican Republic united to form a new party called the Revolutionary Forces (FR) on February 27. Revolutionary politics have a strong tradition in the Dominican Republic. This unity strengthens that tradition and starts to reverse a complicated series of splits which weakened the progressive movement in the 1970s and 1980s.

The main socialist party, the Dominican Communist Party (PCD), was founded in 1944. The three organisations with which it fused, the July 21 Revolutionary Force (FR 21), the Revolutionary and People's Liberation Force (FRLP) and the January 12 Liberation Movement (ML-12), all arose during the 1970s as separate clandestine organisations linked to the resistance against the 1965 US invasion, and later against the army's death squads.

Various revolutionaries without party were also inspired to join the new organisation, a trend which the FR wants to encourage.

The inclusive nature of the unity discussions was reflected in the conference. All participants were free to contribute to the discussion which centred on the party program, its strategy and statutes. While voting was restricted to delegates, many amendments suggested by observers were incorporated into the final documents adopted by the congress. Observers came from a broad range of academic, religious, political and community organisations.

Party leader Narciso Isa Conde called for all revolutionaries, regardless of whether they were followers of Stalin, Mao, Trotsky or Albania, to join the process. He also made a special appeal to the Popular Democratic Movement (MPD) and the Dominican Workers Party (PTD) to begin serious fusion discussions. The MPD and PTD have been collaborating in the Caama&241;ista Revolutionary Union (UCR) alliance for several years.

The new party is both internationalist and nationalist. Many Dominicans have fought alongside revolutionaries in other parts of Latin America. Shafik Handal of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) of El Salvador acknowledged this when he returned personal papers to the daughter of one of the Dominicans who died fighting in El Salvador.

Other international guests at the conference included the New Independence Movement from the nearby US colony of Puerto Rico. From Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, came the Haitian Patriotic Association. (The enthusiastic reception for the Haitians was especially outstanding because anti-Haitian racism has long been a tactic of the Dominican ruling class.)

The delegates from the neighbouring island of Cuba were given a rousing cheer in absentia. The Cuban, Vietnamese and Korean delegations were unable to come from Havana because they were denied visas until the conference was virtually over.

Also represented were the Venezuelan, Honduran and Argentinean Communist parties, the Broad Front for the Construction of a National Liberation Movement from Mexico, the International Action Centre and the Workers World Party from the US, and Green Left Weekly and the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) from Australia. International greetings were read from parties such as Ireland's Sinn Féin, the Brazilian Workers Party and the Tupamaros from Uruguay.

Handal appealed for other parties to join the unity process and stressed the importance of unity in El Salvador. The new party is not only numerically stronger but more geographically disperse; the 600 delegates and observers represented all parts of the country and broader social sectors. The FR defines itself as a cadre party based on the principles of Marxism, Leninism, non-sectarianism and independent thinking.

The closing rally of 1200 people combined revolutionary speeches with a concert featuring merengue bands (the Dominican Republic's national music and dance), poetry and carnival dancers. It was a foretaste of what Isa Conde says will be "a revolution to the rhythm of merengue".

From GLW issue 228