almost ten years later
watch me here analyzing
always clueless and debating
regret and remember
and the time
– “Almost ten years later (for Grenada)” by Merle Collins
October 16 marked the 38th anniversary of the death of Maurice Bishop, head of the People’s Revolutionary Government of Granada (PRG). The PRG was formed when the New Jewel Movement (NJM), led by the very popular Bishop, seized control of the country from US-backed dictator Eric Gairy. Although the NJM government lasted only four years before Bishop was killed in a military coup led by Bernard Coard (after which the United States invaded to destroy remnants of the movement), human politics Bishop’s popular and popular outlook, as well as his internationalist perspective, remain an inspiration to students of the Grenadian Revolution.
Grenada is a small island in the southern Caribbean, near the coast of Venezuela. Before the colonization of the Americas, it was populated by the indigenous Arawaks and the Kalinago, or Caribbean, the people from which the Caribbean takes its name. The island was eventually settled by the French, who killed most of its native population, but it was taken over by the British at the end of the Seven Years’ War, which is why English is the most common language. most common in Granada today. In a pattern replicated across the Americas, the British forcibly moved thousands of enslaved Africans to the island and used their labor to generate profits for the metropolis. As a result, the vast majority of Grenadians claim African descent.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, many Grenadians lost their jobs. This led them to seek employment abroad, which often led them to become involved in unionism and anti-colonial activism. One of the most important activists of the time was Eric Gairy, who returned to bring his country out of colonial times in 1974. Once in power, however, he became a brutal dictator who received considerable support from the people. United States and its allies.
Gairy terrorized the population with his Mongoose Gang, a private militia that targeted critics of the regime for torture and death (including Rupert Bishop, Maurice Bishop’s father, killed in 1974) and received weapons and training from Chile from Pinochet. In return for his loyalty, he was a member of the English Privy Council in 1977, and later that year he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
Unsurprisingly, Gairy and his clique have shown little interest in Grenada’s economic development. Agricultural production fell, unemployment rose, prices skyrocketed, and movements against his government gained more and more influence. The NJM, a communist group modeled on the principles of Marxism-Leninism, became the main body for collecting and organizing the anti-Gairy resistance. Gairy was aware of the objectives of the NJM, and in 1979 he planned to have its leaders assassinated while traveling in the United States.
The NJM learned of its plot and acted first, arresting the mongoose gang and taking control of the state. On March 13, 1979, with the resounding support of the people, they proclaimed the founding of the Revolutionary Government of the People of Granada. Maurice Bishop becomes prime minister.
Bishop was a widely traveled Marxist with an internationalist philosophy, and he spoke positively of anti-imperialist intellectuals like Frantz Fanon, post-colonial leaders such as Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and Julius Nyerere, and figures of the American resistance. such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Under his tenure, health care became a human right, social housing was created for the first time, food production skyrocketed, and adult illiteracy increased. been reduced to less than 5% in three years.
In addition, the Grenada National Women’s Organization (NWO) was created with the aim of prioritizing gender equality. Trinidadian scholar Rhoda Reddock states that âGrenada’s leadership of the Revolution was unprecedented in its public recognition of the role of women in bringing about the revolution and invited them to participate in the ‘revolutionary transformation process’.
All of these initiatives have been undertaken in a popular and participatory manner, and have resulted in significant social and infrastructural gains. The successes of their governance model made the PRG an enemy of the United States. After his normalization efforts with the United States failed, Bishop admitted he had become a target. As he pointed out in a speech at Hunter College in New York on June 5, 1983:
“They give all kinds of reasons and excuses [for opposing us]-some of them credible, others completely null. We saw an interesting one recently in a secret report to the State Departmentâ¦. This secret report stated that the Grenada revolution is in a sense even worse – I use their language – than the Cuban and Nicaraguan revolutions because the people of Grenada and the rulers of Grenada speak English and therefore can communicate directly with the people of the United Statesâ¦. They [also] stated that 95% of our population is blackâ¦ if we have 95% of predominantly African descent in our country, then we can dangerously attract 30 million blacks to the United States.
Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan both sought ways to demonize and destabilize the government in Granada. Reagan even called an airstrip built to support tourism, the island’s second-largest economy, a “Cuban-Soviet power projection” – and the American media played along. ‘writes Noam Chomsky in Necessary illusions, “The US actions … aimed at undermining the government of Maurice Bishop have hardly been reported … The other measures pursued have also not been reported. [ex. the blocking of aid to Grenada after the August 1980 hurricane] derail progress and development under a government now known to have been popular and relatively successful.
When PRG Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard seized power in a coup, the exact circumstances of which remain unclear to this day, Bishop was jailed and ultimately executed. The Reagan administration seized this opportunity to end the New Jewel movement once and for all.
More than 7,000 American soldiers invaded the island under the pretext of protecting American students, but it soon became clear that their real intention was to prevent the revolution from clinging to power. As Lola Campos writes, â[the American invasion] resulted in the reinstatement of Granada’s old constitution and an immediate reversal of the achievements of the NJM revolution.
More than 40 years later, the students of the violently interrupted Grenadian revolution are – to borrow the words of the poet Merle Collins, a staunch supporter of the NJM – “analyze / still upset and debate / sympathize by synthesizing / regretting and remembering” circumstances which brought Maurice Bishop to power and those which led to his ouster.
Although the PRG is no longer, the social and economic achievements of the New Jewel Movement, in addition to its internationalist orientation, remain an inspiration to those seeking to imagine a new North-South relationship outside the ties of global neocolonialism.