From the Information Bureau of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement
On the Death of Comrade Wilberto Ventura
Revolutionary Worker #1073, October 8, 2000
Comrade Wilberto Ventura, an important Marxist-Leninist-Maoist leader in the Dominican Republic, died on May 29 after a long illness. In July, a major gathering to honor the life and mourn the death of Comrade Ventura was held in the Dominican Republic. Under banners reading "Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism" and "Eternal Glory to Comrade Wilberto Ventura," veterans of the struggle in the Dominican Republic offered moving testimony of his revolutionary contributions spanning more than 30 years. They were joined by youth and students who are part of a new generation of activists. In a message to the memorial, the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, declared: "Now death has taken our comrade with his mission still unfulfilled. His life and death stand as a challenge to every person who wants liberation for the people to join or to step up the struggle to forge a Maoist vanguard for the Dominican revolution; the greatest way to honor him is to help fulfill this work. We are confident that many will answer that challenge."
The following is a statement on Comrade Wilberto Ventura from the Information Bureau of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement.
Word has just reached us of the death of Comrade Wilberto Ventura in May. Also known as "El Moreno", he played an important role in spreading Maoism in the Dominican Republic and to linking the struggle there with the international communist movement. Many people from among the masses loved him and expected a lot of him, and he struggled to live up to their expectations until the end of his life, despite decades of often very debilitating illness.
Like many thousands of proletarians and other Dominican youth of his generation, Wilberto Ventura was born to political life in April 1965. In that glorious moment, amidst political turmoil and urban upheaval, a part of the armed forces opened the arsenals to the people, who rose up and overthrew one of the bloodiest, most notorious and longest-lasting of the many U.S.-installed regimes in Latin America. Once again the U.S. staged a massive invasion and occupation to re-establish its puppet rule. The poor poured out of the factories and slums and rushed to join others gathering at the Duarte bridge standing between the capital city and the docks pumping thousands of American troops into the country. They organised themselves hastily to wage a fierce battle against the U.S. Marines. The importance of what they did continues to resound today. Comrade Ventura was one of the many young men and women who stepped forward, offering their lives and doing everything within their power to provide the leadership that could turn the uprising against U.S. domination into the beginning of thoroughgoing revolution in this part of the world, part of the common struggle and warfare then raging against imperialism in Vietnam and around the globe.
The questions posed by those intense and extremely complex days were ones which El Moreno was to grapple with for decades and which the Dominican revolutionary movement still faces: Who could lead the revolution? At the same time that certain bourgeois political forces helped propel that revolt, they also proved their inability to lead it and soon betrayed it. How could the relatively small proletariat in the largely agricultural Dominican Republic go from being used by other classes to actually directing the broad masses, and how, through what kind of political and military scenario, could it lead the people to actually defeat a superpower-backed regimeÊand construct a different kind of society?
As a teenager, Comrade Ventura became a member and then a local leader of the Dominican People's Movement (MPD). At that time, the regime was systematically hunting down hundreds of MPD activists, murdering them on the streets, in the countryside and abroad, and torturing them to death in the old Spanish dungeons that symbolised the continuity of colonial and semi-colonial rule. Comrade Ventura was shot and wounded in the course of mass work. He lived the contradictory life of someone widely known among the masses and yet working in clandestinity. But even more important than courage was his determination to find the answer to the question of how, concretely, to make revolution in that country. The MPD had been constituted as a rejection of the traditional revisionist road in the Dominican Republic, which consisted of preaching elections while attempting to establish a secret alliance with a part of the ruling class. Comrade Ventura became associated with those in the MPD who also rejected the equally revisionist Cuban model of establishing a guerrilla "foco" that ultimately could not hope to and did not seek to defeat and dismantle the enemy's armed forces by military means. In fact, he and others rejected the model that Fidel Castro and Che Guevara stood for. As the comrade said, it would have meant turning the Dominican Republic into a Soviet-dominated cane field instead of an American one. They enthusiastically looked toward Mao Tsetung and the Cultural Revolution in China because what they sought was not just a ticket for a seat in the circles of reactionary power but a thoroughgoing social revolution.
In 1979, in the wake of the reactionary coup following Mao's death in China and the opportunist assault on Mao's teaching by Albania's Enver Hoxha, the international communist movement faced a grave crisis. A part of the MPD and others seized upon Hoxha's line to attack Mao's influence in the Dominican Republic. At the time of a "democratic opening" sponsored by the U.S., these forces dumped the MPD's revolutionary heritage and became a major legal opposition party. Comrade Ventura and others denounced this maneouvre, and fought not only to save the MPD's honour and the revolutionary elements of its line, but also to more fully grasp Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and advance, through both study and concentrated mass work. "Alone and surrounded by the cannons of the revisionists," as he later described the situation for these comrades when many people were deserting the revolutionary ranks, he led in the founding of the Revolutionary Communist Union (UCR). He made serious contacts with Maoists elsewhere in the world and took up study and debate with them. In 1984, Comrade Ventura took part in the founding Conference of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement as the representative of the UCR.
In the decade of the 1980s the UCR's literature and activities helped spread RIM's line and Maoism in the Dominican Republic. An important part of this was popularising and mobilising support for the People's War in Peru, which has had a particular impact in the Dominican situation. The UCR also stood out among Dominican organisations in resisting the anti-Haitian chauvinism that has always been a part of reaction and reformism's stock in trade in that country, and in insisting on the inextricable ties between the revolution in both parts of the island of Hispaniola. There was a long struggle for the UCR to develop a programme for applying the strategy of protracted people's war to the concrete conditions of that country, so as to mobilise and rely on the rural masses and make it possible to build up military strength and political power piece by piece, rather than to focus everything on an initial urban insurrection that could not hold out for long against the Yankees. Because the UCR could not resolve this problem, its practice could not advance and it faced increasing obstacles in uniting all who could be united to form the authentic communist party that many advanced people expected of them. In 1991, the organisation announced that it was "not politically and ideologically able to continue functioning in terms of its tasks at the national level. Its inabilities are numerous, and we comrades are not in a condition to find a way out of this grave impasse. Rather than trying to continue things as they are, it is better to clarify the situation, criticise our own political and ideological views, to understand what is wrong so as to discover the causes for this temporary defeat and then take the necessary corrective measures, following Mao's teaching to 'cure the sickness to save the patient.'"
Comrade Ventura did not take this setback as an excuse to sell out the revolution. He continued to engage in discussion and struggle on the basis of MLM and to support RIM and its work, including, very importantly, the defence of the life of PCP Chairman Gonzalo. He vigorously opposed the Right Opportunist Line that tried to achieve the kind of accommodation with the regime in Peru that he had opposed in the Dominican Republic. He was also very enthusiastic about the People's War in Nepal. Despite his poor health and other practical obstacles, he was active in the campaign to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Mao Tsetung. At a time when Maoism once again became a controversial question among revolutionary-minded young Dominicans, he sought to win over and train successors. Above all, he emphasised that without Maoism and a vanguard party, revolution in the Dominican Republic would fail. "I continue defending and working for the highest interests of the proletariat, and today am more convinced than ever of the invincible principles of revolutionary communism, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism," he wrote in a letter as he prepared to return to the Dominican Republic in the late 1990s after several years in New York where he engaged in revolutionary work.
The Dominican Republic has undergone many changes since April 1965 but today it is more under the heel of the U.S. than ever. The cry "Yankee Go Home!" that arose in the streets of Santo Domingo continues to reverberate. Comrade Ventura's blood pulsed with the Dominican people's revolutionary energy, which imperialism has never been able to extinguish. Other comrades will surely come forward to see his mission through to the end, to chart the road to revolution and build a Dominican Maoist vanguard, summing up experience in that country and internationally as a part of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement and taking their place in the ranks of the struggle for communism, world-wide classless society, the goal he prized so highly and never betrayed.
The Information Bureau of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement--July 2000
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