Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Pillars of Grenada's People Revolution

Our revolution was 'a big revolution in a small country'
--Comrade Maurice Bishop


By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
October 25, 2005
Updated: November 21, 2014


On this 22nd anniversary of the illegal, immoral and hegemonic US invasion of Grenada on 25 October 1983, it becomes imperative for Caribbean peoples to never forget the immutable pillars of Grenada's people revolution.

According to Grenada's former ambassador to Washington, D.C. and the Organization of American States (OAS), Dr. Dessima Williams, the ten cardinal pillars of Grenada's people revolution are:

One: " Unconventional removal of government from office, namely, the seizure of the state by armed means --- military force."

"Until (1979) in the history of the Commonwealth Caribbean, governments have been changed through elections, through the ballot box, rigged or fair, but mainly through the electoral process. However, we in Grenada knew very well what rigged elections were."

The People's Revolutionary Government (PRG) of Grenada represented "the first moment in the Commonwealth Caribbean history that a government has been changed by armed seizure."

Two: " Rejection of liberal democracy."

This was a "very explicit statement on the part of the leadership that Grenada would not follow the path of the rest of the Commonwealth Caribbean and pursue along the lines of developing liberal democracy; in particular, the form of the Westminster bi-cameral system." The PRG totally rejected this form of "spectator politics."

Three: "The Adoption of The Grenada Declaration."

This document contained a Pre-amble followed by ten laws. "The Grenada Declaration is comparable as a historical document in revolution to that of the Declaration of Independence of the United States which laid down the rationale and path of this new process. Why did the Founding Fathers say "No" to King George and what were they going to do?. Why should We the people be free?. This was what they laid out in 1776."

"(The US Declaration ) retains its currency as a political document of its day. In 1979, two hundred years later, the Grenada Declaration does the same thing. It suspends the constitution--- a constitution inherited in 1967 when (Grenada) was still a colony, updated in 1974 at the time of independence and abrogated by (Eric) Gairy at whim for all the period of the 1970s during which he violated the rights of Grenadians, en masse. This is the constitution on coming into office that the PRG suspended."

Four: "Development of Mass Organizations in Lieu of Multi-party System."

On coming into office in 1979, "the New Jewel Movement (NJM) decided that mass organizations would take the place of the traditional political parties. Such mass organizations included the National Women's Organization, National Youth Organization, Young Pioneers, Fishermen Organization, Trade Union Council, Workers' Parish Councils, Zonal Councils, etc."

"The departure from seeing politics as confined to political parties was replaced by having organizations function within the interests of popular constituencies" in order to maximize the public good.

Five: "Definition of a New Democracy."

"The PRG took its time to delineate its definition of Democracy. The revolution says that real Democracy has five critical elements : (i) Democracy must provide material benefits for the people (ii) Electability --- the citizenry must have the right to elect its people (iii) accountability of the leadership must be an element of the new process (iv) any democracy, particularly the one that we were building in Grenada--- a people's democracy--- must be able to defend itself and (v) freedom of expression and religion."

"The differences between traditional (Euro-centric) liberal democracy and democracy under the PRG are : (i) it was made explicit to begin with (ii) it had an enforcement, advocacy, pro-active modus operandi thereby assuring public accountability and transparency and (iii) it was processed with ultimate vigor."

"The rights of the citizenry were not just written on books but were enforced."

The PRG of Grenada rejected the Euro-colonial-British imposed Westminister System of government. Instead, there was not a Parliament in Grenada but a National Assembly a la Cuba. The PRG refused to hold "free and fair" elections; the Prime Minister refused to wear custom-made three piece suits and he was referred to as Comrade Maurice Bishop by the people. He sought to identify with the people's revolution.

Six: The PRG revolution "Acknowledged, Enforced and Expanded the Social Contract." In other words, just as the Founding Fathers of the American revolution emphasized that theirs was "Government of the people, by the people and for the people" the PRG was doing exactly the same thing.

One way in which the Social Contract was implemented was that "the priority of the revolution was on its people."

In addition to one's social wage, the PRG "provided subsidies in transportation, free health care, free medical care, free dental care, free education; this (made) up the basket of goods that constituted the social wage and it is within this context that the Social Contract has real people-oriented meaning."

"The lowest at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder paid no income tax."

Seven: The notion that "People would make policy; People would be Subject not Object in the Process."

The paramount intention of the PRG was "to put people at the center of the process instead of at the margin or otherwise."

"This initiative represented a bold departure from what existed before; it never claimed to solve all societal problems but it was a positive, viable, radical alternative."

Eight: The PRG put forward the notion that basically "Grenadians could think for ourselves, that we could think through the problem and we could think through the solution and even if we miss important elements, we could and must solve the problem."

A classic example of this independent thinking and problem-solving revolutionary process was the brown- beetle pest control problem in agriculture. The PRG issued a call for scientists to help solve this problem.

"Then an old gentleman designed a trap to catch the beetle; the trap was made from local wood by an old farmer who had faced that same problem for over fifty years. That trap actually worked."

Such independent thinking and problem-solving is "so dangerous and threatening to those who are always thinking for you" and always know what is good for you.

Nine: The PRG proposed a "Socialist Development Policy."

The PRG basically "wanted to be judged by what we were doing as opposed to putting on labels." It was an ideological process. "The non-capitalist path of development was clearly undertaken."

The two major achievements of the PRG's socialist development policy are:
(i) "the achievement of sustained socio-economic growth and development" and (ii) " a level of equity in income distribution."

The fact of the matter is that Grenada's per capita income was $870 in 1982, ranking the country 10th in per capita income among the English-speaking Caribbean ; about 38 per cent of Grenadians now had access to piped- drawn water; unemployment dropped from 49 per cent at the time of the March 1979 people's revolution to 14 per cent; the economy also grew by 5.5 per cent in 1982; and real wages increased by 3 per cent.

Moreover, according to a World Bank report, the PRG was spending its money "well", mostly trying to develop the infrastructure for sustainable economic growth, namely, the airport, roads, water and sewer lines, telephone and electrical generators.

In fact, the August 1982 Annual Economic Memorandum of the World Bank concluded that "Grenada has been one of the very few countries in the Western Hemisphere that continued to experience per capita growth during 1981."

The "magic of the market place" was fully functioning in socialist Grenada.

Ten: "A Re-positioning of a Small Black Underdeveloped Society in the International Arena."

The PRG sought "to re-position Grenada vis--vis the international division of labour" in regard to cocoa and nutmeg exports. In addition, the PRG was successful in changing the notion that "size and colour of underdeveloped people did not prevent them from getting involved in big (power) politics of the super states by daring to do so."

Prime Minister Maurice Bishop ossifies this pillar by asserting : "We do not want war. We have never wanted war. But equally, we are not prepared to give up our birthright or to allow others ---=no matter how big and powerful they are--- to shape our destiny for us or to tell us what we can do, when we can do it and how we must do it."

The fact of the matter is that the ominous potency of Grenada's people revolution, first and foremost, was the "unbreakable link between the masses and the party; between the masses and the government; between the masses and the State."

"The March 1979 revolution was a radical popular uprising. In its direct impetus and immediate tasks, it was a democratic, anti-oligarchical, anti-imperialist revolution."

In a speech entitled "Imperialism In Not Invincible" (6 September 1979), Comrade Maurice Bishop expounds on the virtues of the revolution as follows:" Our revolution is a people's revolution and as such, the cornerstone of our revolution is the development of our people and hand in hand with this aim is the establishment of the people's rights--- rights that include the right to social and economic justice, the right to work, the right to equal pay for men and women and the right to democratic participation in the affairs of our nation."

Grenada's people revolution stood for real independence, genuine independence and meaningful independence and that "the right to self-determination for all peoples in the region and internationally must be recognized and respected in practice."

According to erudite historian Dr. James Millette: "The Grenadian revolution landed a vital blow against neo-colonialism, raised the standard of protest and rebellion and raised the domain of anti- imperialism and the domain of pro-liberation in a socialist sense."

The bottom-line is that the Grenada's people revolution proves quietly convincingly that Caribbean peoples are not only determined to be independent but also to act independently.

Truth Be told : Maximum leader, Comrade Maurice Bishop pens the ultimate eulogy of Grenada's people revolution thus: "The sovereignty of a people is non-negotiable and for us in Grenada, inheritors of a deep sense of pride and independence--- not an iota of our rights is negotiable. (Our revolution was) a big revolution in a small country."

"Long live solidarity, friendship and cooperation among peoples!
Long live the anti-imperialist and anti- fascist unity of peace-loving and progressive forces worldwide!
Long live the force and weight of international public opinion!
Long live (proletarian) internationalism!
Long live the Grenada('s people) revolution!
Forward ever, backward never!"

Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani Labour College and University of the West Indies.


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