Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Legacy of 1970 events: Revolution, what revolution?

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
January 10, 2011

For many decades, the notion has been bandied about that a "Black Power Revolution" occurred in T&T between February - April 1970; however, the purpose of this article is neither to posit a definitive critique of the events of 1970 nor to question its historic legitimacy.

Instead, the purpose of this article is two-fold: to present a linkage analysis of the events of 1970 and to examine their legacy as of this writing (January 2011).

Indeed, there is general consensus that the genesis of these events was born in the computer lab at Sir. George Williams University, Canada and not in the body politic of the undergraduate student's guild at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad.

There is also general consensus that the leaders of these events did not label them the "Black Power Revolution"; rather, this was a media-imposed label.

Moreover, it can be said that these were re-active events, not pro-active actions on the part of the leaders. Their actions do not represent a revolution in the true sense of the word. A true, de jure revolution represents complete/total destruction of the current State apparatus with State power now in the hands of the proletariat/revolutionary forces a la Cuban revolution under Comrade Fidel Castro (January 1959) and the Grenadian revolution under Comrade Maurice Bishop (13 March 1979).

As Brian Meeks points out in "The 1970 Revolution : Chronology and Documentation" (1975):

"The Black Power revolt of February to April of 1970 in Trinidad and Tobago was a revolutionary struggle which was not carried through to completion, where state power, at the end of the upsurge, still lay in the hands of the old social forces-a broad alliance of merchants, landed and foreign interests and in the political sphere, state bureaucrats and the governing People’s National Movement (PNM)."

In 1970, the 'Movement' led by Geddes Granger (now Makandal Daagar)," the Chief Servant", Dave Darbeau (now Khafra Kambon), Alyegoro Ome and several others, including Clive Nunez, sought to identify with and support their African brothers and sisters at Sir. George Williams.

In terms of linkage analysis, today, however, this genre of unified consciousness is reflected /manifested in the stark reality that individuals are referring to themselves and each other as "Negroes", "Afro-Saxons" and/or "Afro-Trinbagonians" in calypsoes, professional/academic/public policy/government documents, newspaper articles, etc, 24-7-365.

It is this historic, unfortunate but real dilemma that this writer regards as the sad legacy of retrogressive, feeling-good consciousness resulting from the events of 1970-revolution, what revolution?

Put another way, these current labels speak volumes as to the ephemeral, fleeting, transitory nature of struggle in T&T. In other words, Africans and Indians co- existed along side each other in struggle in 1970; however, in 2011, their identities have been replaced by "Afro-Trinbagonians" and "Indo-Trinbagonians"—legacy of retrogressive consciousness.

Today, 99.9 per cent of Trinbagonians of African descent wear expensive dashikis only once a year every 1st August on Emancipation Day just as they wear expensive costumes twice a year only on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. In other words, they are One-ah-Day Africans on Emancipation Day just as they are "Red nose sailors" twice a year on Carnival days.

However, from 2nd August to 31st July, they are "Negroes" and/or "Afro-Trinbagonians" --- revolution, what revolution? --- sad legacy of retrogressive consciousness.

Nevertheless, in 1970, the leaders of the 'Movement' not only began to look inward to the reality of life in T&T but also demanded that the racial hue of tellers in commercial banks should change.

In 2011, when one enters any commercial bank in T&T, although the racial hue of the tellers does reflect the racial hue of the marchers/protestors in February-April 1970, however, the dynamics/interplay between the "forces of production" versus the "relations of production" has remained intact/entrenched/unchanged.

The stark reality is that the racial hue/ethnicity of the membership of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) is not the same as the marchers/protestors in Port-of-Spain between February-April 1970—"the more things change, the more they remain the same"---revolution, what revolution?

A similar disconnect rears its ugly head when one compares the racial hue of current news anchors on local television to that of the marchers/protestors of 1970. The same disconnect is also very, very clear/obvious when one examines the news anchors on television programming under the rubric of "Government Information Services Limited" and "Let's Talk Tobago."

Another very, very interesting, poignant and revealing corollary comes to the fore when one views commercials during local television programming; indeed, the racial hue of nine out of ten of the Trinbagonians in these commercials is totally different from that of the thousands of marchers/protestors in 1970.

Indeed, one can argue that basically nothing has changed in T&T because the events of 1970 do not represent a successful, complete revolution. Everything is back to square one in 2011--- revolution, what revolution?

Another scary and frightening fallout of the events of 1970 is that consciousness has been taken to a new level; by way of elucidation, the label "African" was used in 1970, however, a societal label is in vogue, that is, "Redman" (male) and "Reds" (female)--- sad legacy of retrogressive consciousness.

As Trinidad sociologist Prof. Lloyd Braithwaite opines in "The Problem of Cultural Integration in Trinidad" (1954):

"Every social system possesses some symbolic means by which the unity of the society is reaffirmed. In those societies which are highly stratified or in which there are several groups with sharply divergent cultures, there tend to be a variety of such means. In the case of Trinidad, we have a highly stratified society in which there is nonetheless a great deal of common cultural allegiance."

This "common cultural allegiance" existed and was fermented in 1970; however, the transitory nature of struggle has relegated this phenomenon to the cultural ash heap of T&T's history--- revolution, what revolution?

In juxtaposing the nexus between race and revolution, C.L.R. James surmises as follows:

"The race question is subsidiary to the class question in politics and to think of (revolution) in terms of race is disastrous But to neglect the racial factor as merely incidental is an error only less grave than to make it fundamental".

And as the late revolutionary-socialist Dr. Kwame Nkrumah once remarked: "In revolution, there is no room for sentimentality" or as deceased Bro. Bob Marley corroborates: "there is no room for impartiality"---translation: in true, de jure revolution, "total destruction, the only solution."

Truth Be Told: The time is now to re-activate that unity of consciousness and solidarity among all Trinbagonians if the events of 1970 are to be afforded their just, historic accolades, creditability and legitimacy in the annals of T&T's revolutionary history.

In sum, although the events of 1970 do not represent a "revolution of rising expectations," nevertheless, they symbolize a bold attempt at a revolution of rising societal discontent ostensibly pioneered by the dispossessed, lumpen proletarian class in 1970 T&T.

"Forward Ever, Backward Never".

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of labour and Co-operative Studies.

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