Grenada Revolution Revisited

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
March 07, 2010

GrenadaSaturday, 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.

5 thoughts on “Grenada Revolution Revisited”

  1. This article is an attempt to re write history.

    Dr. Nantambu neglects to mention clearly in the article that the Grenada revolution imploded. His timeline of its end while being chronologically correct, fails to mention that Maurice Bishop, Unison Whiteman, Fitzroy Bain and Jacqueline Creft (and others) met their deaths not at the hands of some agent of some foreign government but on the orders of his second in command Bernard Coard. His choice of words is also misleading as he terms their deaths an “assasination”, Bishop and his colleagues were lined up against a wall at Fort Rupert and executed. (a better word would be “murdered”) while they begged for their lives.

    Further it fails to mention that one of the causes of the power struggle that ended with the murders of Bishop and his colleagues was that Bishop wished to moderate, and had indeed recently returned from a trip to Washington where he had been warmly received.

    Dr. Nantambu’s article is further intellectually dishonest as it seeks to select indicators of progress that only support his case. Yes under the NJM they recorded economic growth, however his assertion that there were no shortages of consumer goods is wrong. Further, the basic services such as water and electricity were intermittent to say the least.

    Dr. Natambu further completely neglects to mention that immediatley prior to the murder of Maurice Bishop that a bloody massacre had taken place at Fort Rupert where the leaders of “the revo” had turned machine guns on a crowd containing women and children that had freed Bishop from house arrest. Bernard Coard was later to indicate that “he had not intended the massacre to happen”. However having ordered armoured cars armed with machine guns to the Fort with orders to “retake Fort Rupert” at all cost one can wonder as to what he saw as the means for this. Coard and his associates have never mentioned what was done with the bodies from the massacre during the 24 hour curfew that followed.

    Video evidence exists of the massacre, which shows people jumping from the Fort to their deaths in an attempt to get away from the guns. Due to the topology of Grenada there are also witnesses who saw the massacre from their houses on that day.

    Dr. Nantambu ends his article with the words “I go in peace” it would be far better if he had been able to end it with “I go in truth”

    For further reading I refer you to the following link:

    I also choose to end my response with a quote in a language other than English however my choice is latin.

    “semper memento ”

  2. the article is clearly an attempt by the die- hards of communism to paint the grenada revolution as all that and more. So far from the truth… The Grenada revolution was far from been perfect.. even the reports of the minutes of the Central Committe of the NJM showed massive economic stagnation in the country, even though the leaders of the revolution wanted people to believe that everything was ok. What is striking about this article is that the writer is supposed to be a university lecturer I wonder if that is the new style of education in the world – information without facts- then again that is not information, mere scribblings of what is wishful thinking…again similar to the idiotic dream of a classless society… communism is indeed the figment of the imagination of
    an undeveloped, over taxed brain… and hapless fools blindly cling to some farlorn hope of it succeeding… somewhere…some day and in some way.
    But in the case of the Grenada Revolution…it was a failure.. a disaster, we paid for the mistakes with blood and bones, families and homes…mothers and sisters, fathers and sons…we lost so much more than the leader and his comrades… we lost years of meaningful development…
    So Prof. next time you sit to write such utter nonsense remember you are disrespecting the memories of loved ones whom you cannot replace and showing contempt to a people who are learning to live with the unhealed scars caused by the revolution and its ultimate demise.

    “nos teneo atrox nos ago is”

    AC Major.

    p.s the title Major was given to me by Maurice Bishop… we were close friends

  3. I have read Nantambu’s views of the Grenada Revolution of 13th March 1979 and would like to suggest to him that he access himself to the SGU and come to Grenada to lecture to us his thoughts of the revolution and allow himself to be questioned by the audience and get the facts of the REVO from, so to speak “the horses mouth”. He has written with no authority, no facts, just his own thoughts.
    He needs to expound the facts of which Grenadian in the revo he knows was hired or paid by the US government to destabilise and end the revolution. Dr Kwame please invite yourself to SGU and come and face the Grenadian people. I WANT TO GET MY TWO CENTS WORTH IN QUESTIONS TO YOU.

  4. Let me speak for the good folks at Cipriani Labor College and say , cut it out Opee , and leave our good Professor Nantambu alone. Instead of attempting to garner some cheap publicity by posing your naive rhetorical questions to insult his sensibilities , save your outrage for the rightwing anti progressive officials ,that runs the crazy , Iran Contra lying ,California warmonger, Cowboy President, Ronald Reagan Presidential library, and the various revisionist historians that advised comedian Caribbean leaders such as Eugenia Charles,and Tom Adams against the direction of now vindicated , Uncle duncey Chambers ,to support this ill conceived invasion in return for a paltry 30 pieces of Caribbean Basin Initiatives silver.
    You should be thanking the Professor for even commenting on the subject of the 1979 revolution that placed Grenada on the partway to social economic and political development after years of mismanagement at the hands of European puppet, and diabolical buffoon Eric Gary ,and his rabid Mongoose gangs.Do you think anyone else in the world cares about Grenada, outside of the 300,000 or more of her citizens that escaped to Trinidad to produce another 300,000 babies so as to ensure that the PNM remain forever in power?
    What exactly were Grenadines able to achieve after this assault on their democracy ,under the guise of saving a few yuppie party freaks disguised as Medical students? For the record, the best roads that were ever built in Afghanistan was constructed by the USSR, while they learned about drug productions as a way to finance their wars from other unmentionables. The best Caribbean airport ever constructed , was done in Grenada with the help of the Cuban people, and these aren’t revisionist information – so go figure.
    Grenada like Haiti , and Venezuela ,has historically always been ladened with a small oligarchic elite with their own American orchestrated , anti struggling people agendas. How historically, this pro capitalist loyalty of English speaking Caribbean people , to big hegemonic brother USA was and will be rewarded is anyone’s guess. Remember this ,your country , and region as a whole holds no wider geopolitical significance outside of seeing the dead Castro /Kremlin Socialist expansions drives. Time to get alive in the 21st century, and appreciate what prudent , political alliances are about.
    Shout out to the people of Panama.

  5. Neal,

    as is typical for people of your ideological slant, you talk about saving your outrage for the right wingers that run the US, but have no outrage for the women and children slaughtered at the fort.

    Unable to defend your arguments in a clear concise and logical manner you then revert to personal invective and poorly used jargon in a desperate attempt to hide the fact that on an intellectual level “the emperor has no clothes”.

    Irrelevant information about roads in Afghanistan or the Grenada airport do not change the facts that the men women and children who died at Fort Rupert were not members of any “small oligarchic elite” (to borrow your laboured phrase) they were normal “salt of the earth” Grenadians who were murdered by the Soldiers of the regime that the eminent professor apparently idolises.

    It is ironic that you have the nerve to come to this thread and talk about “revisionist information”

    As to your last charge of “What exactly were Grenadines able to achieve after this assault on their democracy” we can point to the facts; Grenadians have a country that is a stable democracy, where human rights are respected, and governments have changed peacefully several times. While crime rates are higher than people would like they are much lower than in Trinidad. The standard of living of the average Grenadian has improved and the lights and water are far more reliable than they were in the days of the “Revo”. The Cuban built airport has been expanded and improved, and the country has bounced back remarkably well from the impact of two major hurricanes.

    All in all I’d say it’s a pretty good record.


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