Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Grenada Revolution Revisited

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
March 07, 2010

Saturday, 13 March 2010, marks the 31st year anniversary of the first successful armed revolution against neo-colonial government in the English-speaking Caribbean.

On 13 March 1979, while the neo-colonialist "criminal dictator" Eric Gairy was out of Grenada, "the real revolutionaries" of the New Jewel Movement (NJM) under the leadership of Comrade Maurice Bishop masterminded "a successful armed takeover of the True Blue army barracks and the island's sole radio station."

On that day, the People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada (PRG) was born. Indeed, Grenada's revolution validates Dr. Frantz Fanon's dictum that "de-colonization is always a violent phenomenon". Moreover, it does not matter whether or not that de-colonization struggle is fought against a neo-colonialist rather than a Euro-colonizer. That's what neo-colonialism is all about, namely, oppression/exploitation of the colonized by the colonizer in the era of putative political independence.

In 1979, the tiny island of Grenada was such a classic case/paradigm.

Grenada's successful revolution is significant in the following way: it marked the first time in the English-speaking Caribbean that a political leader sought to completely destroy the imposed/inherited Euro- British-colonial system of education a la Fidel Castro in Cuba re Euro-Spanish colonial education.

In his treatise "Education for the New Grenada", Comrade Maurice Bishop sought to prove to the Euro-colonizer that the colonized "Grenadians could think for themselves, that we could think through the problem and we could think the solution and even if we miss important elements, we could and must solve the problem."

Through the PRG's education for liberation program, Comrade Bishop attempted to extricate the mind of the Grenadians from the psychological shackles/tentacles/clutches of Euro-British-colonial education.

Comrade Bishop was determined to create a New Grenadian who could think independently and not be saddled by Euro-centric mental/psychological dependency/slavery.

Comrade Maurice Bishop was all too aware of the adage a la Malcolm X that the European slave-master took the chains from off the feet of the slave/colonized and put them on his mind.

The primary purpose of education under the PRG was to "use the educational system and process as a means of preparing the new man for the new life in the new society we are trying to build."

Thirty-one years ago, with a minuscule population of only 110,000 people producing nutmeg, the PRG sought the total destruction of the imposed/inherited Euro-British-colonial Western model of governance and putative liberal democracy.

Instead of the Euro-centric British parliamentary model, the PRG established its own parliamentary model--- the National Assembly. The PRG regarded the Euro-British colonial system of governance as "spectator politics." The PRG was determined to create "a people's democracy" in Grenada.

The ultimate goal of the PRG in the creation of this new genre of revolutionary governance was "to put people at the centre of the process instead of at the margin or otherwise." The new people's democracy in Grenada under the PRG was from the bottom up.

The PRG instituted a non-Western, non-capitalist path to development titled a "Socialist Development Policy." This new development policy was so successful to the extent that the August 1982 Annual Economic Memorandum of the World Bank written by independent economists concluded that "Grenada has been one of the very few countries in the Western Hemisphere that continued to experience per capita growth in 1981."

In addition, independent economists of the Caribbean Development Bank also found that the average growth rate of Grenada's economy between 1981-83 (2.2%) was the third highest in the English-speaking Caribbean; there were no shortages of consumer goods from 1979-83; the basic human needs (BHN) of the Grenadian people had been met by the PRG.

In other words, Grenada's revolution proved far beyond the shadow of any doubt that a Socialist/Marxist development model works. Capitalism is for the colonizer, not for the colonized.

The geo-political fact of the matter is that because of the afore-mentioned overt successes, the United States under President Ronald Reagan had to destroy Grenada's successful people's revolution. The United States could not have allowed/permitted this revolution of, by and from the people to continue because colonized peoples who are suffering in other larger Caribbean countries would have wanted/opted to follow Grenada's successful revolutionary path and seek to overthrow their respective neo-colonial government.

This Caribbean ism spread would have meant the end of America's hegemony in the region. Ergo, the United States did not want a second revolutionary Marxist Cuba in the Caribbean.

To this end, the United States utilized "Operation Urgent Fury" to totally destroy Grenada's revolution. President Ronald Reagan pursued this policy under the overt protection of Article 8 of the June 1981 Treaty of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) in collusion with other Caribbean governments such as Barbados under Prime Minister Tom Adams and Prime Minister Edward Seaga of Jamaica.

It must be pointed out that in 1981, both Barbados and Jamaica were not members of the OECS and when the United States invaded Grenada on 25 October, 1983, both Barbados and Jamaica were still not de jure members of the OECS. In June 1981, the following countries belonged and still belong to the OECS: Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, St. Kitts-Nevis and Montserrat.

The stark reality is that the leaders of these OECS countries and by extension, Barbados and Jamaica, were very much afraid of their own political survival. And one can assume that they concluded that if the 110,000 people in tiny Grenada could revolt against their neo-colonial government, ipso facto, their own people would do the same.

Moreover, one can also assume that all of these leaders wanted to destroy the successful Grenada's people's revolution more that the United States; ergo, U.S. Ronald Reagan did not have to do much arm twisting to get neo-colonial Caribbean political leaders, as in, Prime Ministers, to collude with the United States to completely destroy Grenada's successful people's revolution. And that they did.

In keeping with the modus operandi of Europeans, these Caribbean leaders' quid pro quo was couched in President Reagan's February 1982 "Caribbean Basin Initiative" (CBI) to the tune of US$350m in trade and investment.

Indeed, the sad legacy/record of the successful Grenada's people revolution reveals that Comrade Maurice Bishop was placed under house arrest on 12 October 1983; he was brutally assassinated on 19 October, 1983, at Fort Rupert (named after his father, Rupert) along with Unison Whiteman, Fitzroy Bain and Jacqueline Creft. On 25 October 1983, the United States invaded Grenada.

Truth be told, Grenada's successful people's revolution proves that any leader who seeks to destroy the European imposed/inherited systems of education and governance would pay a price, albeit, a deadly price. In the final analysis, Grenada's people's revolution was anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist but most importantly, it was anti-neo-colonialist. It symbolized the rule of We the People in all its manifestations. As Comrade Maurice Bishop once surmised: Our people's revolution was "a big revolution in a small country."

"Forward ever, backward never."

Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").

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

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