Targeting Dr. Williams

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
November 06, 2017

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeIn October (2006) I reviewed Colin Palmer’s Eric Williams and the Making of the Modern Caribbean for the Journal of British Studies. I congratulated Palmer for exposing the intrigue of Britain and the United States against Williams when he fought for the return of Chaguaramas for the federal capital of the Federation of the West Indies. I wrote: “It might come as a shock to many that the United States gave some thought to ‘eliminating’ Williams during the Chaguaramas discussion. The British sought to sabotage his efforts.”

“These revelations should not be taken as empty threats in light of the Central Intelligence Agency’s role in Cuba and Guyana when several attempts were made to eliminate Fidel Castro, and Jagan was removed from office by Britain and the United States.” Although Palmer looked at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) files, he did not tell us that the CIA was monitoring Williams’s activities from 1941, two years after he began to teach at Howard University in 1939.

A lowly assistant professor of Social Sciences, Williams joined a faculty that was concerned with social justice for the Negro race. Its faculty included Alain Locke, a philosopher; Charles Johnson, a father of American sociology; E. Franklin Frazer, sociologist and author of The Negro Family in the United States; and Ralph Bunche, a political scientist and winner of the 1950 Nobel Prize for Peace.

In his foreword to Williams’s Negro in the Caribbean (1942), Locke described Williams as “a citizen of the Americas in the larger sense.” Capitalism and Slavery (1944), Williams’s magnum opus, catapulted him to the front of the historical field in the UK and US.

Recently released documents revealed that the CIA was monitoring Williams from September 1941. They were interested in his activities among campus organizations at Howard. This surveillance increased after he became the premier and prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, began to fight the US for the return of Chaguaramas, and sought to put his stamp on the government of T&T. Sean Douglas has offered a concise description of these activities (Newsday, October 31).

I was interested in information an informant gave to the FBI in November 1956. It stated, “C. L. R. James, international leader and co-founder of the Johnson-Forest Group and former president of a university in Trinidad, British West Indies, has been a close friend of Williams long before James left Trinidad.”

He added that James or Williams rarely made a move without consulting each other and predicted, “that in view of Williams’s political success in Trinidad, James would return to Trinidad” (MurkRock News).

The informer misrepresented James’s position. He must have meant that James was the principal of Pamphilian High School that he started in 1920 around when he met Williams. During his tenure as principal, James staged Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” at a Port of Spain cinema that flopped. Few people attended the performance. “But,” as Jean Besson noted, “Nello [CLR] pressed on. The play was staged in front of the curtain and his pupils performed the whole [play]….When Nello read Shakespeare it wasn’t just a book he was reading but he saw life behind it, and he had to present that life (Caribbean Reflections).

Williams and James left Trinidad for England in 1932. In 1958 Williams brought James back to Trinidad and installed him as the editor of The Nation, the PNM party’s newspaper. James resigned from the Nation in July 1960 when he and Williams fell out. When I interviewed James in his Brixton apartment in London in the early 1980s, he indicated that he broke with Williams because Williams was not willing to go far enough on Chaguaramas. He felt that Williams should have demanded more from the US than he received.

Williams was the practical politician; James was still the theoretician: all theory, little practice.

James and Williams were much closer politically when the latter wrote Capitalism and Slavery. The Johnson-Forest (pseudonyms for James and Raya Dunayevskaya) Tendency was a highly theoretical Marxist group that was founded by James and Dunayevskaya, a former secretary of Leon Trotsky. By 1956, James was far left of Williams, a radical democrat some may have described him.

The USA was watching both James and Williams but they could never get the goods on Williams they wanted. In 1956, he may have been a radical who was committed to bourgeois democracy but that was acceptable for the US, except in his approach to the question of Chaguaramas for which they were ready to eliminate him.

By 1959, Williams had entrenched himself deeply in T&T and West Indian politics. The CIA wanted his ex-wife to give them dirt on his personal life to derail his political career, but it was difficult to remove him from office then.

When the Black Power revolt broke out in 1970, the US was willing to assist him in restoring the peace. By then he was on the US side, managing to retain his progressive democratic tendencies. He was even considered for the post of the UN Secretary-General.

From being a dangerous threat Williams had become an ally, which tells you how strange this game called politics can be.

11 Responses to “Targeting Dr. Williams”


  • Dr. Williams was not strange in his Politics.He was wise enough to understand the evolving World and how it would play out , as regards to T@T.Gone was the African fight, instead it became “all inclusive”.Maybe its why he chose Pat Castagne’s Every Creed and Race.we should all take a Leaf from Papa,and grow with the times.Willie might have been Deaf,but he certainly was not Dumb.The people around him were.He was ahead of his time, in context.

  • The lack of respect that emanates among Africans living in Trinidad, have relegated Dr Williams, his works, philosophy and vision for a post colonial Trinidad, have been lost in the continuous murky flood waters of the state.His knowledge of history, colonialism and imperialism, having studied and work in the bosom of their policy making institutions, gave him an A++ in articulating the every move of the imperial powers of America and England.His writings are more widely read outside , rather than inside T&T. His works was never taught in schools, all we had to go by, was having the future of Trinidad and Tobago in our book bags. Me, personally had to search for Dr Williams and what he stood for, which,i believe was too articulative for pre and post independent Trinidad.The ancient sages told us that certain things should not be discussed with the average man, less he makes you feel that you are a fool, a great calamity can occur. The message that was sent by removing Dr Jaghan from office in Guyana, had Dr Williams using his political know how in walking that narrow line, particularly, having a USA military base, and many multinational cooperations operating in the country. Dr Williams inner sympathy for the Castro’ Cuba revolution, had England and the USA in particular, making him the emphasis of their discourses. The greater Trinidad populace with the exception of the militant OWTU, under the esteemed leadership of George Weeks,Dr Williams greatest opposition locally, the greater community was in the dark,culminating in the 1970 some what mis-guided peoples uprising. In 2011, a white co-worker told me that he was one of the marines docked outside Trinidad waters waiting, in his words, on the orders to come and Kick some ASS, the look on my face , and the condense feeling in my heart, i can’t reveal. ClR, was in harms way living and agitating for African rights in the USA, and had he not having been expelled, his history with Dr Williams, vis-a-vis PNM might have been markedly different. Today, the names and pictures of the top 10 noted Trinidadians are posted on the walls of buildings in the USA that exact regime change, Dr Rowley have never told the nation his phone call discourse with Donald Trump, I know that he was talked down too, not having a foot to stand on, our Prime Minister took it with a grain of salt.Real ramifications, if not heeded. Dr Williams? he was intellectual par excellence, and unless one is not willing to self-educate, he will not be found. His message is truly one for the black man/woman,who have and continue to suffer the ills of slavery , colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, half-baked independence, ethnic divisions between the two major groups and political mis-givings.

    • Good Morning Mr.Cooper…..I really really have to “ditto” the Proof this Morning. A Wonderful Piece….BRILLIANT !!!!!! Back in the Doc days i would have probably responded with a “RIGHT ON!!!!”….. “FAR OUT!!!!!”….@……..”SOLID!!!!!!..Those were the days .If we had collectively followed his advice about The School Bag, the Society would be similar to those times.A Time of Manners @ Respect….Dr. came with a vast Historical Knowledge,knowing exactly where we all came from, so who best to chart the course.Was a rough beginning, but he was fighting in d Trenches for quite a while now so he was prepared like no other to assume Control….Was Logical…Of course the Politics had to be played out too.You had to Win to be in Control in the first place.Papa started to build schools all over the Country…Kept the Culture on the Forefront by creating “Better Village” etc….But I really believe that The Doc was no Economist..A real Pity that Mr.Capildeo and Himself was not in the same Party……..Good and Honest Help was rare indeed..Politicians in those days were very popular people in their Areas mainly,and already corrupted. It was like Massa gone but Massa come,but in we own Color,an attitude inherited from the recent Past.If they themselves had followed Papa as they should have done things would have been different.Dr. Williams was a very SPECIAL MAN..VERY….Is We The People who really screwed up.

  • Selwyn R. Cudjoe, Professor, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts

    The greatest crime that has been committed against Trinidadians and Tobagonians is the hiding of Dr. Williams life and his thoughts from his people. His life and his thoughts should be taught in every nook and cranny of the island, particularly in our schools. But alas, a nation that wishes to stay in ignorance of itself finds it best to ignore the teaching of its master. No society that is proud of itself can ignore its teachers and its scholars: As England will not forget Winston Churchill; and the US would not forget Lincoln and Washington; and France De Gaulle, we should not forget Williams. We should read every scrap of work that he has left us. It is one of the paths to true enlightenment.

    Dear Cooper, thanks for reminding us.

  • Certainly a dangerous time in the history of the world. The “Cold War” era resulted in many government figures especially in the Western Hemisphere being disposed off in favour of US friendly leaders. We saw this happen in Guyana when a dentist along with his communist leaning wife Janet Jagan gave the U.S. and British secret services reasons to get him out of power and welcome the worst dictator of the democratic Caribbean Mr.Linden Sampson Forbes Burnham. Forbes and Eric along with the Jamaican prime minister became close friends. So close that Eric gave Burnham over $500 million U.S. In free oil. Essentially propping up his dictatorship. Thousand fled Guyana mainly Indians who settled in various parts of the world.

    Williams for his part understood the nature of the black man. He knew that lack of housing, jobs and education was his downfall. He addressed those issues by getting rid of Indians in the civil service and created a culture of loyalty and dependency on the government. And so a very loyal PNM voter base emerged. They got jobs, government housing and secret education funding to study abroad in return for loyalty. Additionally he imported 67,000 Grenadians and other islanders to strengthen his grip on power.

    Trinidad is fortunate to have not suffered under the hand of U.S. Imperialism which replaced British Imperialism. Williams must be credited for standing up to the Americans who have established military bases all over the world. His securing of Chagaramas was no easy feat. Williams demonstrated his statesmanship and love for the nation by stopping what would have resulted in high levels of prostititution and further bastardization of young Trini girls exploited by American Servicemen. He understood that the black man and the nation must avoid a life of servitude to a foreign power. He wanted the nation to stand on its own and rise to prominence on its own. His famous words “massa day done” (Eric day start) resonated very strongly in the era of Cold War and nation building. He struck the right tone at the time and laid the foundation for an industrialized Trinidad. Today it is no coincidence that Trinidad is the second wealthiest Caribbean nation. Along with that comes the usual set of thieves whose off shore accounts are laden with stolen money. As the good book states “what is in darkness will come to light”. A few days ago over a terabyte of offshore accounts became available for public scrutiny…..

  • Is there any factual evidence that Williams got rid of Indians in the Civil service?
    My personal experience ha been different.I was hired by the government in 1963 as a young trainee after completing high school. I had to move to Port of Spain to accept the job .
    I met many new Indian recruits from mainly country areas who relocated to fill civil service jobs.

  • “As England will not forget Winston Churchill; and the US would not forget Lincoln and Washington; and France De Gaulle, we should not forget Williams”……Cudjoe

    That motto should hold true for the educators in Trinidad and Tobago. The educators who teach our children, are doing a disservice to our country, if in the knowledge of Trinidad and Tobago, they are not teaching Eric Williams in their classrooms.
    Just as India had Ghandi, South Africa had Mandela, so we too had Eric Williams, whose knowledge of history, colonialism and slavery was important in steering us away from the masters of domination.

    But, we must be careful. In so doing, there are those who are quite willing to smear and distort true history in order to import themselves as catalysts of past developments. Altered history could never be a valid form of recognizing and crediting our past. In that respect, I don’t have to go far. Our good friend Mamoo, in his contribution to this article, has said this about Eric Williams “He addressed those issues by getting rid of Indians in the civil service and created a culture of loyalty and dependency on the government. And so a very loyal PNM voter base emerged. They got jobs, government housing and secret education funding to study abroad in return for loyalty. Additionally he imported 67,000 Grenadians and other islanders to strengthen his grip on power.” Most right thinking people would see and discount this as UNC propaganda. But it was fed in a way that is condescending, in paying tribute to the works and times or Dr. Williams. This narrative is a constant invective fed mostly by Indian intellectuals, who see the migration of people from the islands as an accommodation for the PNM to stay in power.

    It is both insidious and purposeful to push that narrative to the Indian people, because they are saying that because small islanders immigrate to this country, it makes their numbers less competitive to elect an Indian government. If Mamoo knows history, I believe that he is willing to forego it, to push his Indian agenda. This is where I am willing to interject the foundation of our history, starting with the man who is responsible for populating the island – a Grenadian (yes a Grenadian) by the name of Philippe Rose Roume De Saint-Laurent, one of the main planter/developer in Trinidad and Tobago. He sought and encouraged Grenadians, Martiniquans, Guadelopeans, Dominicans and others to settle in Trinidad. That was about the year 1783. It was from then, there was a constant flow of islanders from these islands into Trinidad and Tobago. It follows naturally that our first Trinidadians were really people from the smaller islands. Such immigration was our past and to some extent our present.

    Anyone having some knowledge of populations in the Caribbean would have difficulty in agreeing with the manufactured number of 67,000 Grenadians coming to Trinidad to augment the voter rolls of the PNM in 1956 (or thereabout). But it plays well for ill-informed Indians, because it ignites the fury that the PNM has to depend on this type of immigration to win the voter counts. We must resist this kind of propaganda that only adds to the already sordid discourse between the two main political forces in the country.

    It stands to reason that our first Trinidadians were really people from our sister islands. That means that their descendants are really our cousins in a literal sense. For political reasons, many Indians will resist this summation because it did not include them as part of the family, but it represent our true past and whether they like it or disbelieve it, our past has been written and cast in stone.

  • When Dr Capildeo refused to partake in the politics of uneducated Bhadase Sagan Mahraj and having decided to be a professor instead of a local politician, Trinidad lost, maybe the best educated Indian Male leader. Basdeo Panday, having nurtured in both the OWTU and the Socialist Workers and Farmers party, came on the scene as a front line in the legendary OWTU. As education and research officer/ plus a trained barrister, Mr Panday had all the tools needed to be a force to be reckonded with. Trinidad was ready for the change needed to create the society that would truly benefit the two major exploited groups. Today, this man with great orator/leadership capabilities, the only elder statesman of the nation, lies in oblivion, having been rail roaded by opportunist, all because he veered off course and reverted to the ancient customs of South Asia, that really had no uniting value in the New World of mass exploitation.Presently, the foundations he built, has been taken over by a woman of his heritage, who in a different time, would have been outside looking in. All she has is a colonial oriented Law degree, that really represents nothing but corruption. Will history forgive Basdeo Panday when the true archives are written? He had everything in place to transform Trinidad forever, both politically and culturally, but he chose the negative, leaving the likes of MAMOO, Stepnen K , SAT and many more to continue their deviance. The Indian male, unlike Mr Panday, do not have a workers struggle background, but one that is based in materialism and corruption, thats the least of Trinidad’ needs moving forward.

  • Some people on this blog-site repeatedly confuse Indian “racial self-interest” with racism. They are two different things.

  • To me Eric was brilliant and yet an enigma. He did great things for TT, but it appeared to be wasted when looking at current state of affairs. If the history of Eric Williams is push aside by the people of TT, then it is their lost. Indians my not like him because he ‘marginalized them”. Afros has a love/hate relationship with him. Some find he was too bourgois and sided with the “parasite oligarchy”. The parasite oligarchy never satisfied, always got what they want in the end. Everybody doing well except Afro Trini. Devouring their own by the daily murders. I never seen a bunch of people who hate one another with such venom.

  • Getting to Eric. While did great thing for our then young nation. Independence, secondary education, the attempt to make TT an industrial tiger was all good. But I have had issue with his “guiding” the nation to republic. Jeez, we are a joke republic. tell me what Eric was thing when he decided to remain in the British privy council when we became a republic. This hit when Abu Bakar was released by the pc. I said what kind of dotishness is this. We are a republic and we have to subjugate to the pc for a man who had a lot of people killed. From then on I say “we is a joke” republic. So you intellectuals, what was Eric thinking when he opted for the PC?

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