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The Central Park Sheiks


THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN GRENADA

By Chris Holness [January 1975]

In November 1974, the Gairy wing of the Grenada bourgeoisie - The Grenada Businessmen's Association and the anti-Gairy wing - the Chamber of Commerce, issued a joint statement to the press, announcing reconciliation, pledging co-operation with each other and with the Gairy Government and announcing that they had been offered one of Gairy's seats in the Senate, as well as substantial representation on all statuory [sic] bodies in the state. Negotiations to that end had been proceeding secretly from the moment of the re-opening of the ports at the end of March 1974, following a period of five months of revolutionary upsurge among the masses, led by the urban proletariat and especially the dockers.

The announcement therefore signalled [sic] in a formal way what had in fact begun to take place from the moment the bourgeois led trade unions ordered the dockers back to work at the end of a heroic three-month strike which seriously crippled and almost toppled the Gairy regime - the closing of the ranks of the bourgeoisie to what they saw as the greater peril - the main contradiction in bourgeoisie society, the contradiction between the bourgeois as a whole, and the proletariat and urban and rural poor.

THE 1951 REVOLUTION

To understand the present political situation in Grenada, the strata which make up the present day bourgeoisie and their internal conflicts, it is necessary to understand the socio-economic formation in Grenada in 1951 and its development to the present day.

Grenada in 1951 was almost exclusively a combination of plantation and peasant economy. The rural proletariat and semi-proletariat, labouring on approximately 150 estates of 50 or more acres owned by white and mulatto Grenadians. These estates comprised nearly two thirds of all farm acreage.

The vast majority of the remaining population were peasants. There were over 10,000 peasant holdings under five acres, these holdings, however, comprising a little over 20% of total farm acreage. There were only three banks (two large foreign and one local "penny" Bank) in the Island, with one branch each; there were about half a dozen very small factories, mostly locally owned, producing soap, soft drinks, cigarettes and lime products, and about a dozen large commercial [sic] establishments engages in importing and retailing, the majority owned by British capitalist interests.

State power was in hands of a dictatorship of the British colonial ruling class in alliance with the local Grenadian plantocracy.

Total population at the time was approximately 80 [sic].

Before the 1951 Constitution granting universal adult suffrage came into effect, both legislative and executive powers were in the hands of British colonial officials and local plantocrats, with only a minority elected members and these chosen only from a miniscule monied and propertied classes. Even under the 1951 Constitution granting universal adult suffrage and majority representation for elected members in the legislative council, control of the executive and all the organs of the State, including police, armed forces and the Civil Service remained firmly in the hands of the then ruling class with the powers of the Governor actually increased.

The demonstrations, strikes, riots, lootings, burning and land seisures [sic] which erupted in 1951 involved the participation of all the rural poor and exploited masses - proletariat, semi-proletariat and poor peasantry - with the agro-proletariat as the Vanguard and main fighting force of the struggle. In 1950 and particularly towards the end of that year, cocoa prices fell on the World Market, with wages falling [unclear word/s] portionately [sic] for the plantation workers, as under the existing agreement between the employers society and the Grenada Trade Union Council (GTUC) a pre-Gairy, bourgeois controlled trade union - wages were linked to changes in the price of cocoa. When asked by the GTUC not to lower wages further for fear of "disturbances", the Employers Society flatly refused to consider the request. Tenants and squatters on some of the larger estates were being evicted; thus the balck [sic] masses were being crushed by rampant racism, land eviction and the erosion of their already starvation wages.

The Revolution started as a demand for higher wages and better working conditions for plantation workers. It developed into a full-fledged attack on the plantocracy and colonial ruling class with general strikes, destruction in some cases and seizure in other cases of the property of the plantocracy and demonstrations against colonial rule, including destruction of colonial property.

GAIRY'S BETRAYAL OF THE MASSES

Gairy seized the initiative in leading the struggle of the exploited masses and channelling [sic] it to suit his goal - a sharing of power with the existing oligarchy. He organised the agro proletariat and other exploited masses through a trade union, the Grenada Manual and Mental Workers Union and a political Party, the Grenada People's Party (later to be called the Grenada United Labour party). He then used the trade union and Party as vehicles for organising the Island-wide strikes and demonstrations. In mid-February 1951, spontaneous acts of violence and arson directed against the plantocracy began to occur. On February 12, Gairy organised the most massive demonstrations to be held outside the Legislative Council, demanding to see the Acting Governor and through him the employers Society, both of whom refused to recognise his trade union. The Acting Governor responded by detaining Gairy that evening on a British gunboat. This led to an immediate and uncontrollable outburst of rioting and destruction of plantation and Government property throughout the Island. The Grenada Police Force, with the assistance from neighbouring colonial Police Forces as well as British marines, were unable to control the revolutionary upsurge of the masses.

On March 5, the British colonial Government sent back to the Island the Governor, along with the special labour advisor to the Secretary of State for the colonies. They immediately released Gairy from detention, recognised his trade union and began negotiations with him.

Neither the realease [sic] of Gairy nor the recognition of his union and the start of negotiations dampened the revolutionary fervour of the masses. Lootings, destruction of property and seizure of land in many areas, continued unabated. The announcement of initial agreements between Gairy and the Government and the employers still had no effect on the masses.

Finally, Gairy came to the rescue of the British ruling class and the local oligarchy by going before the masses on March 8, appealing to them in turn for confidence in him, threatening them, using divide-and-rule tactics and promises:

"I have promised his Excellency the Governor, there shall be no acts of violence again in Grenada. I have promised the Labour Advisor to the Secretary of State that there shall be no acts of violence again in Grenada because I know the labourer's wage shall be changes. Do you trust me? (Crowd "Yes". Well Say after me now - "I swear before God and man that I shall not commit any acts of violence and if I know' - Just a minute, ]if there is someone near to you who does not put his hand up, let is [sic] name go to the Police - 'I shall not commit any act of violence, and if I know of anyone who commits any act of violence or acts of violence, I shall report to the Union head, before God and man - so help me God'.

This attempt to sell out the Revolution failed, and so on March 15, Gairy committed his final act of treachery in an Island-wide radio broadcast:

"I fell [sic] obligated morally and spiritually to do something to alleviate, to stop and when I say stop I mean stop, burning of buildings and fields; interfering with people who are breaking your strikes (leave them alone); stop taking things from the estates that are not belonging to you, particularly cocoa and nutmegs; I want you to stop and you must stop now, every set of violence and intimidation . . . I told his excellency the Governor that I have gained your respect and your implicit confidence and you will abey [sic] me without fail. Now, don't let me down. I ERIC MATHEW GAIRY, am now making this serious appeal to you to start living your normal peaceful life, take my example and be a respectful decent citizen, as I say starting now. Let me make this point, however; everyone knows that I am a serious young man and when I say "NO" I mean NO and when I say "YES", I mean Yes. Now listen to this: I am now in search of gangsters and hooligans, I ask everyone of my people to help me, if anyone is found setting fire to any place, breaking open or robbing in any way, interfering with people who are working, there will be nothing to save you, because the law will deal with you most severely and "Uncle Gairy" will turn you down completely. Join me now in saying no more violence.

Come on now thouse [sic] of you listening, let's say no more violence, three time together, "No more violence", No more violence", No more violence". Thank You".

Gairy proceeded to win the 1951 elections under universal adult suffrage and five of the next seven elections held in the following twenty-three years. The colonial ruling class phased out direct colonial rule gradually over the rntire [sic] twenty three years period, from Universal Adult Suffrage in 1951 to a Committee System, then a Ministerial System, then Internal Self Government, followed by Associated Statehood and finally, Constituitional [sic] Independence at the height of the Revolution in 1974.

THE RISE OF THE BROAD COMMERCIAL CLASS

Following on the power-sharing compromise of 1951 several of the plantocracy sold their plantations and either moved abroad or moved into the urban areas to join [sic] the small hold commercial class.

The period since 1951 saw the emergence of the formerly suppressed black upper petty bourgeoisie, whose interests Gairy represented and actively fostered. It also saw the increasing alliance of this strata of the bourgeoisie with foreign and imperialist interest which expanded rapidly throughout this twenty years period. Several Syrian Lebanese businessmen of the merchant retailing variety settled in Grenada, captured some of the existing commercial enterprises from the old commercial strata and expanded the commercial sector considerably. In more recent years, Geddes Grant, Y. Delite and Kirpalani were to join the ranks of the expanding [sic] foreign commercial firms. Several small 'screwdriver' factories were build [sic] producing garments, canned foods, bricks, cosmetics and so on. The tourist sector expanded considerably and the multi-national banks of the imperialist countries flooded in. Today, there are dozens of merchants retailing enterprises, with a mixture of local and foreign ownership, but with the foreign-owned sector expanding more rapidly in recent years and taking away some of the 'agencies' previously controlled by the local merchants. Of the thirty odd small 'screwdriver' factories, the key ones are all foreign-owned. In the tourist sector, there are about two dozens [sic] large and medium sized hotels, some owned or part owned by Gairy, but with the foreign Hotels again, particularly the multi-national "Holiday Inn". Concerning most of the tourist trades providing another source of friction between the commercial sector. There are sixty-six Insurance Companies mostly foreign owned registered in Grenada. Finally, there are now seven major banks, most with several branches throughout the Island.

An indication of the relative decline of the plantocracy in Grenada can be gotten not only from the fragmentation of many of the great estates and a notable decline in the involvement of plantocrats in active politics, but also by the fact that for the past ten years, the contribution of this sector to the economy is a little under one-half of the contribution of the tourist sector lone [sic]. (EC$11M vs $25M)

CONTRADICTIONS WHICH LED TO THE 1973-74 REVOLUTION
CONTRADICTIONS WITHIN THE BOURGEOISIE

Since Gairy's return to power in 1967, there has been an open alliance between Gairy's emergent bourgeoisie and upper petty bourgeoisie and the foreign commercial sector in Grenada. The latter financed his 1967 and 1972 elections, as well as his business ventures. In turning he [sic] past put the machinery of state at their disposal in the form of tax concessions, loans etc.

The old mulatto and Grenada white population and merchant classes have supported the Grenada National Party (formed by this strata in 1955 to counter Gairy), but except for two periods in office, they have been notably unsuccessful political a boutique [sic] and a major merchant house.

Gairy himself is now a full-fledged member of the new commercial class, owner or part owner of hotels, guest houses, restaurants, a boutique and a major merchant house [sic].

Gairy's emergent black bourgeoisie and upper petty bourgeoisie, allied to imperialist interest in the state, have been threatening the economic base and very existence of the old commercial and landed class. Through a series of discriminatory Government measures this strata have seen themselves rapidly becoming extinct. In many cases, they have lost their agency rights (to import products with the higher profit margins) to foreign interests allied to Gairy. They have lost tourist trade in like manner. And finally, some of their estates have been seised [sic] by Government order, mostly without compensation, in Gairy's "land for the landless" scheme and given on favourable terms to Gairy's black bourgeoisie. Their post 1951 sharing of power with Gairy was by 1972 rapidly becoming a total loss of power. The redrawing of the election boundaries by Gairy's Government two weeks before the 1972 elections in such a way that his strata with 42% of the popular vote, received only two of the fifteen seats and one of those seats by a margin of one vote, caused great alarm among this strata. The final straw came when the British acceded to Gairy's request for independence of his terms without adequate safeguards to this strata of the bourgeoisie.

THE BLACK POWER MOVEMENT AND THE EMERGENCE OF THE NEW JEWEL MOVEMENT

The failure of the 1951 Revolution to completely sweep away the semi-slave, colonial ideology and class relations provided the basis for the 1970 Black Power Movement in Grenada; rising black consciousness throughout the World, particularly the 1970 Black Power Revolution in Trinidad provided the spark.

The movement comprised the increasing body of urban and rural unemployed youth, itself largely a result of the disintegration of the plantation system. The leadership of this movement was provided by middle and upper petty bourgeoisie young professionals (lawyers, teachers etc.) returning from experiences of racism abroad. Significantly, this entire leadership, which was later to become the leadership of the New Jewel Movement and lived and studied in the US, UK and Canada, only one at UWI.

The main thrust of this movement was against white racism and imperialism. Because of Gairy's open and close relations with white racist imperialist interests in Grenada and Gairy's use of the police force, which he doubled and armed for the first time in Grenada's history in direct response to the Black Power outburst, the movement increasingly concentrated its attack on the Gairy remine [sic]. Gairy in turn responded with a display of police and secret police force was unleashed on nurses during their demonstration and strike. In early 1973, Gairy's armed police force threatened leadership successfully smashed the iron gate built by an English plantation owner, Lord Brunlow [sic], to block off access to the only beach in the area. This was to become known as the famous "La Sagesse Incident".

In April of that year, one of Gairy's police put a gun to the temple of a twenty-three year old youth, Jerry Richardson, in Grenville, and pulled the trigger killing him instantly. The following day, led by NJM, five thousand people from that parish marched on Pearl's Airport and in the face of armed police who shot and wounded ten of the demonstrators, they closed down the Airport for three days.

With Gairy's "neo-colonial independence" manoeuvres proceeding with the British, NJM organised from May onwards, a mass struggle demanding that the constitution for an independent Grenada be drafted and put into effect by the masses right here in Grenada and not at a constitutional conference five thousand miles away in London. On May 6, NJM organised the People's Convention on Independence, bringing together ten thousand people at Seamoon in Grenville (one quarter of the voting population).

On November 4, NJM followed this up with a Police congress to decide the fate of the Gairy regime. At this Congress, Gairy was charged and convicted [sic] in absentia of twenty-seven "major crimes", falling into three categories: Police brutality, gross incompetence and mismanagement of the economy and widespread corruption. A National Unity Council was elected by the ten thousand people present as a transitional or caretaker Government with the Gairy regime being given two weeks to resign peacefully.

At the end of the two-week period Gairy unleashed two hundred secret police armed with clubs, bottles and guns on six of the leader [sic] of the NJM in Grenville on Sunday, November 19 - "Bloody Sunday". They were badly beaten up. The island-wide shutdown previously called by NJM to force Gairy's resignation, but which until that moment not only failed to have the support of the old merchant bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie leadership of the major trade unions, but in fact their active opposition now received their support.

From the very beginning, the anti-Gairy bourgeoisie were afraid of the possible consequences of mobilising the masses to overthrow a constitutionally elected bourgeois Government. They tried to let Gairy "see reason" and stay in power. The Island-wide shutdown which took place on November 19, lasted only three days, during which time they approached Gairy in the form of an organisation specifically created by them for this purpose - the Committee of Twenty-two comprising all business and professional groups opposed to Gairy. Significant, they excluded NJM from membership of this organisation on the grounds that the Committee of Twenty-two was "non-political".

They made demands which Gairy promptly agreed to and failed to implement in the tend [sic] days given him by the Committee. Instead of continuing the shutdown at the stage the Committee gave Gairy two further extensions of time before finally throwing their weight behind the NJM's call for the total shutdown and a demand that Gairy resign. Even then, this treacherous, anti-democratic as well as anti-Gairy bourgeoisie attempted backstage manoeuvres to keep the Government in power with the finance Minister, George Hosten, as Prime Minister instead of Gairy.

The shutdown finally began in earnest January 1, 1974 and ended three months later with the bourgeois leadership of the Trade Union ordering the dockers (who had held out to the very end) back to work, thereby breaking the backbone of the strike as just the moment when all fuel in the Island had been used up. There was [sic] no vehicles on the roads - not even Government and police vehicle [sic] had much if any gasoline left. Electricity, telephones and electrically operated water pumps ceased functioning with this total exhaustion of fuel. No taxes were being paid. Civil servants were receiving pay one to two months late and they threatened to join the strike. Then, the secret police, on having their weekly pay delayed towards the end, threatened to defect. There were incidents involving clashes between the Secret Police and the regular uniformed police in one or two parts of the Island. At this time, Gairy in discussions with the Committee of twenty-two and the Council of Churches, frankly admitted that he had lost control of the uniformed police and could no longer rely on them. Ten secret policemen were reported killed by the masses in separate incidents in different parts of the country in the last month of the Revolution.

Finally, the docker's [sic] strike was broken by this treacherous bourgeoisie three days after the dockers' union had received ED$45,000 in funds from various Grenadian and other organisations abroad to hold continue the struggle.

It was thereafter a clear our sellout in the face of the imminent victory of the masses, led by a revolutionary democratic organisation, NJM. For the masses, this was the second major experience of treachery in the post-way period: the first as we say was Gairy, the aspiring petty bourgeois trade union leader, the second by the bourgeois trade union leadership of the major trade unions, (dockers, telephone, electricity and water works workers and commercial and industrial workers), and the anti-Gairy bourgeoisie as a whole, posing as friends of the masses and as being concerned over democratic issues like worker's [sic] victimization, police brutality and general political oppression, while their real objective was to halt the erosion of their power-base and restore the power-sharing compromise of 1951.

THE PAST NINE MONTHS

That a new power-sharing compromise has emerged out of the post 1974 revolutionary period can be seen from many indicators:

  1. An arrangement for ending the "agency war" has been formally worked out between the old and the foreign commercial [sic] strata of the bourgeoisie.

  2. A similar agreement has been worked out between the rival strata in the tourist sector as a result of which the Hotel Owners Association once more presents a united front.

  3. The major churches which formed part of the Committee of twenty-two during the revolutionary period, have re-established close relations with the Gairy regime, broadcasting once again on his mouthpiece, Radio Grenada and publicly holding a long dramatized religious ceremony with Gairy to bless the fifty-four-foot-high-sixteen-foot-wide-two-hundred light-bulb cross which Gairy built in October last.

  4. The granting Gairy to the Chamber of Commerce of one of his seats in the Senate, and substantial representation on all statutory bodies in the State. It is significant in this regard that the person chosen by the Chamber of Commerce and accepted by Gairy to hold the Senate seat, is one of the founding members office holder and main financial backer to the newly-created United People's Party, formed to represent the more dynamic wing of the old commercial [sic] bourgeoisie as a result of the total disintegration of the GNP as a political force over the past two years.

All strata of the bourgeoisie are now represented in Parliament without the need for any election, as had been persistent in the period. The backward strata of the old bourgeoisie still have their seats in Parliament and appointed the trade union leader who broke the dockers' strike as one of their senators, shortly after he had done so. The United People's Party and the Chamber of Commerce now have joint representation in the Senate. And of course, Gairy has all along provided representation for both the Foreign and local elements in his strata of the bourgeoisie.

WHY THE REVOLUTION FAILED

The modes of production in Grenada are backward. Pre-capitalist and early capitalist modes of production and productions relations still dominate. With the exception of docks, the proletariat is not to be found in large concentrations. The petty bourgeois economy is very large. The proletariat therefore is weak, both in terms of class consciousness and organisation. Also, for the above reasons, there has never been a Marxist Leninist trend or tradition in Grenada.

NJM's ideological and organisation weakness - both subjective factors - must be seen in the context of the material base outlined above. So also must be seen the various tendencies or trends within NJM, for example, the New Beginning Movement (NJM) position, relying on mass spontaneity and village organisation without necessity for a vanguard Party of the proletariat to lead the struggle in the democratic Revolution.

In face of the mobilization of the masses by the petty bourgeois revolutionary democratic NJM, the regional and international bourgeoisie came to the assistance of the Grenada bourgeoisie. This assistance was in several forms:

(1) Two British and one Canadian gunboat in St. George's harbour during a critical period in the Revolution.

(2) An "independence gift" of 100,000 from the British Government to Gairy to pay the Secret Police, plus a much larger sum to help pay the Civil Service.

(3) Loans from the Caribbean Governments of Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana totalling over $2M used by Gairy to pay civil servants, police and secret police, during the crucial months of February and March 1974.

(4) Assistance from the bourgeoisie Caribbean Congress of Labour in mediating between the rival strata of the bourgeoisie. It was the CCL official who told the dockers why they should obey the call to return to work.

The low ideological development of NJM's leadership at the time of the 1974 Revolution led to their fundamental tactical failure to sink their roots deeply among the exploited masses, and particularly the working class. This failure to organise the working class as an independent force with its own tactics, and acting on its own behalf was to lead at the most critical period in the revolutionary struggle, to NJM's helplessness in the face of the bourgeois-ordered end to the electricity and telephone workers' strike and, most crucially, the dockers' strike was the most telling proof of this fact.

THE URGENT TASKS FACING THE MOVEMENT AT THIS TIME

The urgent tasks facing the Movement at this time are firstly to stregthen [sic] the genuinely and consistent democratic trend within NJM and to this end, to intensify the ideological development of the leadership and the cadres at all levels of the Movement. Secondly, to simultaneously sink and deepen the NJM's link with the working class - urban and rural - and the poorest peasantry and consistently expose the treachery and the exploitive and anti-democratic nature of the entire bourgeoisie.

The organisation of the working class as an independent force, as the vanguard for the entrie [sic] exploited masses, with independent tactics, must be our main objective. The working class must be transformed, as Marx has put in [sic], from a class in itself to a class for itself.


[NOTE: The analysis above is reproduced from a draft, typed exactly as the original - including typos, capitalizations, underlinings, quotations, spellings and paragraph divisions with [sic] notations emphasizing 'as in the original'. The work is undated. Combining the latest date of November 1974 in the above text with its publication in "Socialism" January of 1975, leads to an approximate date. "Socialsim" is a periodical of the Workers Liberation League of Jamaica. The Workers Liberation League was founded in 1974 by Trevor Munroe and was the precursor of the Workers Party of Jamaica [WPJ], also under the leadership of Trevor Munroe. Into the time of the People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada, focusing on 1981, this Chris Holness text was used for Socialism classes.]

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