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Maurice Bishop preferred death

by Michael Delblond, Newsday TT

According to a newspaper report, former Governor General of Grenada Sir Paul Scoon has just completed a book about his time in public life. Sir Paul was Governor General in Grenada when the PRG seized power in a bloodless coup in March 1979 as well as at the time of its bloody collapse and the subsequent US invasion. Surely, Sir Paul must have an interesting tale to tell. There are, I suppose, a number of issues that Sir Paul is probably the best person to throw some light on, given the position he occupied at the centre of the on-going political storm. Speaking at a one-day seminar at UWI recently, Sir Paul suggested that the death of Grenadian leader Maurice Bishop did not cause the collapse of the People's Revolutionary Government (PRG) in 1983 It was just the occasion. He said that the Bishop-led regime had long lost its legitimacy. In other words, the PRG was dead on its legs but it was only a question of time before it hit the ground and went the way of all flesh.

Interestingly, Sir Paul thought that the overthrow of Eric Gairy was "not necessary." I suspect that most people would probably be interested in finding out what exactly was Sir Paul's role during all this. Was his office simply a ceremonial one? Was he completely sidelined? I do not intend any disrespect nor do I wish to be provocative, but it's just a thought...Could it be that, unwittingly, the office of Governor General provided the constitutional fig leaf that covered a multitude of political sins? Now, the 20th anniversary of the bloody "Palace coup" is probably as good a time as any for sundry analysts of whatever degree of distinction or ideological persuasion to crawl from under their stones and share their analyses and perspectives with the wider public. For my own little part, I'm inclined to think that one of the biggest stories in our area, of our time, can be dealt with from a variety of perspectives and a variety of contexts. Within the widest context, as I perceive it, the isle of spice got caught up in "cold war" politics, big time. As they say, "Cockroach have no place in fowl dance" or "Sardines should avoid shark-infested waters." However, I here and now, propose to confine myself to the narrowest context of the personal power struggle which made "Onemanism" the central issue. In that respect the spotlight inevitably falls on Maurice Bishop. It's hardly a secret that the regional academic left attempted to portray Maurice Bishop as a figure of heroic dimension and (after his death) a pre-eminent candidate for political canonisation. Yet, there did not appear to be an overwhelming consensus as to Bishop's role, stature or achievement.

Naturally, reservations about Bishop had to be muted not only because some enjoyed basking in his reflected glory but "the roots of the revolution had to be watered with the blood of martyrs."

However, if one listened carefully, the specific charge against Comrade Bishop (according to some leftists) is that he was inclined to "one-man rule," in the tradition of an Eric Gairy - albeit of a leftist nature. It was strongly felt that he was exploiting to the hilt his charismatic hold on the Grenadian masses. The New Jewel Movement's proposed solution for "clipping Bishop's wings" was some nebulous "power sharing" formula of the leadership between Maurice Bishop and Bernard Coard. Bishop suspected that he was being effectively sidelined, if not nullified. He stalled on the ground that he couldn't conceptualise how the arrangement would work. It has been argued that by not knuckling under to the Central Committee's directive to institutionalise the joint leadership proposal Bishop was clearly in breach of the (would you believe?) "democratic process." Would you also believe that Grenadians, generally, had no idea that such a powerful "democratic" body as the Central Committee existed. It may be of interest to note that Dr Fidel Castro admitted to Newsweek that he thought the action by Coard (denying Bishop the leadership) "was apparently clean, it was legal even to democratic norms." Someone recently claimed that when Castro offered to mediate the differences, Coard's response was, "Who the (expletive deleted) is Castro?" Talk about the mouse that roared! As someone suggested, "the greatest shame, after the Coardites had disposed of the Bishoprics, was to see those big, bad revolutionaries cowering under their beds, in their underpants," in their "eyeball to eyeball" confrontation with the invading American soldiers. Incidentally, Castro publicly admitted that he did all he could to persuade Coard to spare Bishop's life. My own impression - for whatever it's worth - is that having tasted the heady wine of power, public adulation and applause, "political emasculation" for Bishop was a fate worse than death. There's a type of politics of violence that has an inexorable dynamic of its own. The moment Comrade Bishop elected to "fight back and let the people decide," he, in effect, virtually sealed his fate. The die was cast and he had crossed the Rubicon. Thenceforth and thereafter, there was no turning back. His foes were like men possessed. There was a bullet with his name on it. He represented a monumental threat and embarrassment - at home or abroad, dead or alive!

Trinidad and Tobago News

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