The Grenada Revolution Online

History of the River Antoine Estate:
As Written by the People's Farm Collective

[hand printed] HISTORY OF THE RIVER ANTOINE ESTATE

[typed] Just before we look briefly into the true history of the River Antoine Estate, I would like to quote the following words of Karl Marx. . . "history does nothing it possesses no immense wealth, it wages no battles. It is man, real living man, that does all that, that possesses and fights; history is nothing but the activity of man pursuing his aims."

The history of the River Antoine Estate and in that case all other estates in Grenada is the result of a struggle between those that own the land, the rum factory, in short the means of production but do not work and those who do not own but work. The owners of these estates the exploiters, continue to reap the profits from the labour of the workers, the exploited and oppressed, through exploitative relations. And it is this struggle, the struggle between those workers who because of their relationship to the means of production are placed in a special group and the De Gale family who represent a different group or class, who has a different relationship to the means of production from that of the workers it is this struggle that determine the history of the estate.

So the history of the River Antoine Estate is a history of class struggle, a struggle between the exploited and their exploiters, a struggle between those who own and those who do not own, a struggle between the workers on the estate and the De Gale family.

We also know for a fact, that when our fore-fathers were hunted down, captured and enslaved, they were brought also to this part of the world. But the only thing that were demanded of them was their labour force. The then slave-owners brutally suppressed their true ideology, by denouncing all outward manifestation of their cultural practises.

In 1785, the slaves on the River Antoine Estate whose backs bear the ships of their slave-master during the process of production in the cane fields and other labour activities on the plantation, completed the construction of the rum factory that year. In return they received not wages at that time but feeding, clothing, lodging and medical attendance. This system of forced servitude of every black person on the estate who could not by so called legal documents prove his or her liberty, gave the slave-owners the power to judge, imprison, beat, scourge, wound and otherwise injure the body of the slaves at his own discretion. They possess no legal right in any kind of property. It did not matter how they obtained any personal property, whatever the slaves had belonged in point of the law to their masters, who may dispose of that which they have required, as well as of themselves or their children, in the same manner as cattle or land were sold.

In 1832, one year before the resolution on the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies was accepted by the British parliament, the slaves on the River Antoine Estate were for the first time in the history of their entire cultural heritage introduced to the knowledge of the scriptures and Christianity so as to prepare them for their "pseudo-liberty".

By 12 June 1833, an act of the British Bourgeois Parliament declared slaves in the British Colonies apprentices: the slave-owning class were compensated and provision was made to transform a slave society divided by racism and antagonistic class contradictions peacefully as possible into a free community.

On 1st August 1834 the slave mode of production was abolish. The slaves who then became apprentices for six years up to 1849, under regular laws to their masters were punished for any offences committed against their owners by magistrates sent from England for the purpose of administering the law between the ex-slaves and their oppressors, their exploiters. It was [unclear] that the period of apprenticeship was intended to let [unclear] masters [unclear] ex-slaves get accustomed to living and working in a free community.

However, at the end of the apprenticeship, ex-slaves were no longer bound to the estates and some of them found other occupations, but the majority of emancipated field labourers continued to pursue this agricultural calling for wages as low as five shillings to two and six-pence per week.

Around 1880, Thomas De Gale, father of Jessie De Gale, bought the estate from a colonel in the British Army for 700 pounds. In 1897, agricultural workers on the River Antoine Estate benefited to an extent from the recommendations of a royal commission named the Norman Commission from a new agricultural policy for the British Colonies. The settlement of agricultural labourers on small plots of land as peasant proprietors became a common socio-economic life of some people who benefited from such policy. However, those remaining bound to the estate continue to be exploited and oppressed by its now owner the De Gale family.

Despite the effort by the former prime minister (playboy Gairy) in 1951 to satisfy the demand for freedom from feudal exploitation of the agricultural workers on the estate, by minor concessions, for example higher wages and better working conditions, which was meet with resistance by the big land owning class, aided by the colonial coercive state apparatus in the country and British Imperialism above all, thus resulting in a successful general strike on 19th February 1951 and a mass demonstration through the streets of St. George's on 21st February of the same year, making tremendous contribution to the realization of the first universal adult franchise elections on October 10th, 1951 ever to be held on the island. Eight years after, 1959 to be exact although benefiting from the gains made by the 1951 revolutionary movement at that time, the River Antoine workers once again manifesting open class antagonism against the ruling class, overthrew the management, took-over the estate and stop production for one week. One name Mr. Cocksly? overseer of the estate resisted the workers call for a stop in production and was severely beaten in the process. Their demand was to be free from the brutal treatment they were experiencing from management and owners of the estate.

The move by the workers was also aggravated by the fact that the Grenada National Party which was in power at that time, enacted reactionary laws aimed at strengthening exploitative and oppressive rule of the plantocracy and on the other hand suppress the aspiration of the workers, their demand to be free from the fetters of the plantation system.

However, the spontaneous upsurge of the workers was put to an end by the police, arresting some of the workers, but freeing them later on without any harsh penalty and the De Gales were called upon to appoint a new management to run the estate. Although the workers did not achieve any material benefit from their action, but their consciousness of the class struggle against the De Gales' owner of the means of production (lands, rum factory, implements, livestock) got a bit more sharpened.

So it was no accident, when twenty one years later, the workers in the River Antoine estate together with the people of La Poterie once again moved and took over the estate, change the name River Antoine estate to the People's Collective Farm, abolish the old management and established a Management Committee, pass a resolution demanding collective ownership and control with workers management over production.

The resolution will be found on the following page.

The History of Society is the History of our Struggle


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