Grenada 40 years on
By Donald Ramotar
On October 19, 1983, the Grenada Revolution, which was victorious on March 13, 1979, suffered a very fatal blow. Its principal leader, Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and five other prominent leaders of the New Jewel Movement (NJM) and the Grenadian Government, were executed. The others were Noris and Fitzroy Bain, Jacqueline Creft, Vincent Noel and Unison Whiteman.
This was a terrible blow to the people of the Caribbean. Indeed, it was the greatest setback to the English-speaking Caribbean in recent history. I say this because no other process advanced the social liberation of our region since independence than the Grenada Revolution.
It had become a source of hope for all the peoples of our region. That small island was taking giant steps forward to end neo-colonialism and secure genuine freedom for its people and the Caribbean.
The Revolution was very popular because the new administration made it a truly peoples’ enterprise. Never before were ordinary working people
given the opportunity to participate in the socio-economic and political life of their society to the extent that Maurice Bishop’s Government did. So far it is only the Bishop administration that had ever given the masses an opportunity to participate in the process of crafting the nation’s budget. People were able to debate and determine their priorities.
The new type of government in Grenada established community councils which involved the people in the administration of their area. It was not only limited to their local area but also had a voice in influencing national policies.
The NJM administration ensured that the rights of working people were protected. This was done by making it compulsory for employers to recognize trade unions of the workers’ choice. The labor legislation passed by the NJM remains the most advanced in our region. It democratized industrial relations.
The Government protected workers in their old age by establishing a National Insurance Scheme among other Social Security initiatives.
It is because of the measures taken in the period of March 13, 1979, and October 19, 1983, that the Labor Movement in Grenada is one of the strongest in our region.
Another resounding achievement was the giant strides made in women affairs. The Revolution ensured that women’s equality became a reality in Grenada. Women emerged as a mighty force for social change. Their rights were respected, protected, and upheld and they excelled in every position which they held.
Many schools were built at all levels. It expanded the scholarship program which allowed thousands of young people to acquire a profession. This enhanced the country’s human capital greatly. It’s relation with Cuba and other socialist states assisted in building the human capital to change the society.
The same long strides were made in the field of health. Services expanded to every part of the island.
As a result, economic growth was one of the highest, if not the highest in the region. It began to register 8% per annum. At the same time measures were being taken to ensure more rapid sustainable growth. The airport project was the most important of the many infrastructural projects that were embarked upon.
Grenada began to take the world stage and was becoming a symbol of resistance to imperialism. Its influence went far and wide, even beyond the Caribbean.
This was because it took the issue of sovereignty very seriously. It wanted good relations with the United States and with all countries for that matter. But it refused to be dictated to by anyone. It just wanted to develop the country for its people, to give them the best that Grenada could afford, therefore there were no compromise to sovereignty. That earned the Revo the respect of peoples from large and small countries alike.
Almost from the beginning the US adopted a hostile attitude to the Bishop government. It was clear that they were afraid of the example that Grenada was becoming not just for us in the region but to oppressed peoples in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
It therefore wanted to snuff out the revolution and erase its memory. That is why to this day, forty years on, they have not returned the bodies of the slain leaders of Grenada.
Unfortunately, the internal problems and the assassination of Bishop opened the possibilities for them to do just that. They were not going to give progressive leaders such as Cheddi Jagan, James Millette and others an opportunity to salvage the revolution after the events of October 19.
On October 25th the US mounted the invasion of the tiny island. However, the defenders of its sovereignty, although battered by the loss of the herculean figure of Bishop, the man who was the greatest inspiration of the Revolution, gave a good account of themselves.
In the three days of fighting the invaders the Grenadians lost forty-five (45) fighters and three hundred and thirty-seven (337) were injured. This was of the fifteen hundred who participated in the resistance.
The Cuban workers at the airport site came under attack from the invading force, there were six hundred (600) of them. Twenty-five (25) were killed and fifty (50) wounded. They too resisted heroically.
The United States used seven thousand (7000) soldiers, helicopters gunships, and other sophisticated weapons, lost nineteen soldiers and had one hundred and fifty (150) injuries.
It is apposite to note that the US invasion of Grenada was its first such venture by its armed forces since it was defeated in Vietnam in 1975.
That began a new offensive of the U.S to bring about regime change in several countries. These include Nicaragua, Panama, Iraq, Libya, Syria, the Balkans, Afghanistan and now they are at the ready in the Middle East to invade on the side of Israel.
Donald Ramotar was President of Guyana from 2011 to 2015.