The Grenada Revolution Online

Vince Noel's Letter to Central Committee

The text for the letter below has been transcribed from original typewritten pages. No spellings have been corrected. If the spelling or word usage is obviously an error, it has been noted with the configuration ‘[sic]’ following the word. Anglicized spellings, using the letter ‘s’ instead of ‘z’ - for example - have remained without notation. The punctuation and paragraph structure has remained the same. Bracket symbols such as [and] indicated added information.


Members of the Central Committee and Party,

There seem to be some confusion as to what transpired on the occasion when I met Maurice last week. I was told by Gemma on Saturday that on enquiring from Owusu [Liam James] she was told that I was being kept at home because no one knew what had been discussed between Maurice and myself on the occasions that we met.

I met and spoke to Maurice three times since he returned from Hungary. Prior to that the only conversations I had with Maurice for months were at the meetings of the workers Committee and subcommittee.

The first time I spoke to Maurice was last Tuesday night [11 October 1983] at his house from about ten o'clock until sometime after twelve. He telephoned and asked me to come up in response to two unsuccessful calls I had made to him on Monday and Tuesday afternoons.

We spoke first of all about his trip to Eastern Europe and then my trip to Jamaica. We also spoke about the local and regional trade union situation and especially the upcoming C.C.L. Congress. Finally I introduced the discussion of the Party stating that I had picked up from various comrades that he had not accepted the decision of the Party on Joint Leadership.

Maurice denied that he had any problems with Joint Leadership and went into a long history of his acceptance of that principle dating back to the formation of the Movement. He stated that he himself had voted for Joint Leadership at the meeting of full members of the Party, but at that time and at the meeting of the Central Committee he had expressed certain reservations. These reservations were reinforced during his trip and by certain developments since his return.

His first concern was the question of the precise operationalising of Joint Leadership; the second was historical precedent. My response was that `operationalising' was a detail to be worked out and that ours was a dynamic process which could not be dogmatically patterned after historical precedence. He retorted that it was a tiny detail like a fuse that could cause a car or aeroplane to stall or take off.

The third concern of Maurice was the attitude of comrades of the C.C. [Central Committee] to him since his return. He complained that quite unnaturally only one comrade of the entire C.C., Selwyn [Selwyn Strachan], was present to meet him at the airport and that Selwyn's greeting had been cold. Further, that no other comrade of the C.C., save H.A. [Hudson Austin], had checked him. Contrary to long established practice neither Owusu nor Headache [Ewart Layne] as chiefs of the Interior and Army respectively had come to give him any report.

I responded to Maurice by suggesting that there may have been a very simple explanation for the number of comrades who met him at the airport. Some comrades may not have been informed or were simply pressed with work. I pointed out that while I was a member of the P.B. [Political Bureau]. I rarely went to the airport either to see him leave or arrive. On the question of comrades of the C.C. checking him I asked Maurice whether HE had tried to establish contact with them. He replied no. I told him that as chairman of the C.C. the ultimate responsibility for establishing contact with members of the C.C. must lay with him. He agreed and said that he was planning to raise that and all his other concerns at a meeting of the P.B. scheduled for the next day, Wednesday 12th.

I queried Maurice as to whether he would raise the fact that only Selwyn met him at the airport as one of his concerns. He said yes. I responded by saying that in my opinion the question of how many people met him at the airport was objectively a petty bourgeois concern and I could not see members of the P.B. treating it in any other way. The comrade replied that that would be correct if it was a single incident standing by itself but it had to be seen within the wider context of all the other things which were happening.

I answered the comrade by saying that if anything was happening other than what I had read in the minutes and been told by party members who were at the general meeting then I did not know. What I did know, I explained, was that several party comrades were accusing him of holding up the work of the party through his non acceptance of Joint Leadership. Some comrades had gone so far as to say that he could not go beyond social democracy. Maurice appeared visibly hurt by that last statement.

After a long pause the comrade responded saying that what was of stake was much more than whether he had petit bourgeois qualities or weaknesses. He said that he had picked up a line which spoke of an *“Afghanistan Solution.” I was stunned by this. While Maurice was out of the country [Anslem] De Bourg had said to me one day that Chalkie [John Ventour] had told him that there would be a solution like Afghanistan if the Chief fucked around on the question of Joint Leadership. At the time that De Bourg told me this I had dismissed Chalkie's remarks as a lot of irresponsible nonsense but Maurice's statement shook me.

I told Maurice that I had heard the Afghan talk before and where I had heard it. He said that in his case he had picked it up as coming from Ram [Ashley] Folkes through one of his personnel security comrade. He did not name the comrade. I said to Maurice that if things had descended to the level of P.S. [Personnel Security] men taking sides and talking of Afghanistan then we were a fraction away from bloodshed and disaster. I assured the comrade that the position that I had adopted on Joint Leadership was based purely on principle and my understanding of the issues involved, not personality. I then questioned him about his personal relationship to other comrades within the C.C. as I was of the opinion that he had good relations with all and in particular Selwyn, H.A., Owusu and Bernard [Coard].

He claimed that until recently he had excellent relations with all comrades except Bernard with whom he had had strained relations for about one year. He gave an example of the good relations with Owusu, for instance, and spoke of a report that Owusu had written about the U. S. Trip which report embarrassed him (Maurice) because of the hero worship it contained.

As regards Bernard he said that relations had been strained for about one year since his [Coard's] resignation from the C.C. He recounted his years of association with Bernard from school days up to October last year. Her (sic) said that when Bernard resigned last year he did his best to get Bernard to withdraw it recognising the many talents of the comrade and his value at the leadership level. But Bernard refused to withdraw the resignation and decided to go to Carriacou instead. During that period he [Bishop] became apprehensive that Bernard was contemplating suicide and for that reason called in Keith Roberts and asked him to follow Bernard to Carriacou and ensure his safety.

Maurice said that as far as he was concerned he could work along with Bernard even if Bernard was chosen outright as leader of the party. But he said that in recent times he had been become (sic) increasingly convinced, from all the bits and pieces of evidence available to him, that there were behind the scenes, unprincipled manoeuvres to remove him by a section of the C.C. I again told the comrade that the position I had taken was based on the minutes I had read, the account of the general meeting and my desire, like all other party comrades, to push the party forward. I urged Maurice to formally appeal the decision on Joint Leadership if he had a problem with it and to also raise all the other issues frankly and openly at the meeting of the P.B. the next morning as the situation was grave and could only get worse.

Maurice repeated that he had no problems with Joint Leadership subject to clarification on operationalisation. But, Maurice went on, the main concern at this time was the behind the scenes manoeuvres against him. I again urged Maurice to raise that openly at the P.B. the next day. He told me not to worry that he would deal with everything. The conversation more or less ended there and I left.

That night (Tuesday) I did not sleep. The more I thought about what Maurice had said the more worried I became. Next morning [Wednesday 12 October] instead of going to the International Airport as usual I went to H.A.'s house and told him of my grave concern about the situation in the party and in particular the fear of bloodshed. H.A. said that the situation was worse than I thought and that I could not be more concerned than he was.

He said that, for instance, there was a meeting of some comrades in the army that very morning to discuss the situation in the party and he had no idea who precisely had called the meeting as he had not been officially informed. Further, he said that the tension among C.C. members was so high that they had stopped sleeping in their houses. I told H.A. that that was madness and demanded that the P.B. sit down that morning and fully and completely thrash out all the problems and suspicions. He agreed. The conversation between H.A. and I was a very short one. It lasted only for the time it took me to drive from his house to Fort Frederick in my car.

When I left H.A. I went down to Selwyn to again raise my concern. Selwyn agreed with my analysis of the serious state of tension existing within the party but said Maurice was the one to blame because he had refused to accept in practice, Joint Leadership as agreed upon by the entire party. He said that he was hearing about the “Afghan solution” for the first time, and, that contrary to that, it was Maurice who had been planning to kill members of the C.C. He said that within the past few days a lot of evidence had come to light. For instance, last year [Cletus] St. Paul had approached another security man to kill Bernard after he resigned from the C.C. I retold to Selwyn what Maurice had told me about taking measures to prevent Bernard from committing suicide after his resignation from the C.C. and I commented that it seemed to me that the C.C. was suffering from an overdose of paranoia.

Selwyn said that the only problem at the C.C. was that Maurice would not conform to Democratic Centralism and that he was being encouraged in this by Right Opportunists. He said that Maurice had now compounded the problem by taking the party's business to the Cubans in an unfraternal and unprincipled way using his personal friendship with Fidel. Selwyn claimed that Maurice had spent two extra days in Cuba just for this, and, that as a show of support for Maurice, Fidel had given a reception for Maurice at which eight members of the Political Bureau had been present including Fidel and Raoul [Castro]. Obviously I could not respond to Selwyn's charges but I became fully and absolutely convinced that the party and Revolution were on the brink of disaster. Later that day Nazim [Burke], De Bourg and I were at Nutmeg Restaurant discussing the crisis within the party. Towards the end of the discussion Naz intimated that he, Mikey [Prime], and Chess [Chester Humphrey] and others had written a joint letter to Maurice asking for an audience to discuss the current crisis. Naz asked me whether I would join the group and if so to check Maurice to set up the time for the meeting since I was already in contact with him. I agreed but said I could not do anything until after 7.00 p.m. since I had a Branch meeting at Grenville from 4.30 p.m. until about 6.00 p.m.

That afternoon [12 October] I had two shocking experiences. "Ma Lottie" Phillip and then Lyden [Rhamdhanny] confronted me with a rumour they had picked up that Bernard and Phyl [Phyllis Coard] were trying to depose and kill Maurice. I tried to squash the rumour by denying that anything like that was going on in our party. But I was horrified that our internal problems were among the masses in that way.

I returned to town from my branch meeting at Grenville at about 6.30 p.m. that evening and stopped off at Gemma on my way down. From there I made three unsuccessful calls to Nazim, Maurice and Selwyn. I left Gemma's house and went directly to Maurice's but I was told by ‘Bulo’ that he was still at the meeting at the fort, meaning the P.B./C.C. meeting. From Maurice I went to visit my children at Maria. I was very tired having not slept properly for many nights. I dozed off and eventually stayed there for the night making no contact with anyone.

The next morning (Thursday 13th) I checked Chess on my way home. I told him about the rumours. We analysed that the rumour had not yet hit the working class and decided on a common approach to diffuse it if it did begin to circulate. We recognised the additional grave dangers created by the rumours and agreed that we would, together with Naz etc., check Maurice later than morning after a meeting which he (Chess) had at the power station. I agreed to contact Maurice on my way to the office. This I did.

I arrived at Maurice's house shortly after 8.00 a.m. and remained for about 30 or 40 minutes. He asked me to wait in the conference room while he finished a ‘rap’ with George Louison in his bedroom. When Maurice came back to the conference room our encounter was very brief. I asked him whether he had received a letter from Naz etc. requesting an audience. He said yes and that he was willing to meet party comrades at any time subject to other pressing engagements. He asked when precisely we wanted the meeting. I replied about 4 or 5 o'clock [Thursday 13 October] but that I would get back to him about 1 o'clock. Maurice looked terrible I asked him if he had slept the night before. He answered negatively. I advised him to stop smoking, relax, get some sleep and then I left. I made no mention of the rumour only because I did not want to burden the comrade with further worries just then.

A short while after I got down to the union office Chalkie came in and we greeted each other in the usual way. I asked him how were things going at the level of the C.C. as things were beginning to get rough on the ground. I mentioned the rumours. Chalkie said “What rumours that? Is the chief that start that shit. So you don't know what going on? Come ah go show you.”

We went into his office and began to talk. He told me that Maurice had started the rumour about himself, using Erry [Errol] George, who had confessed, and [Cletus] St. Paul [illeg.] that Maurice was a psychopath and last year tried to kill Bernard after he resigned. That the night before (Wednesday 12/10/83) Maurice using George Louison had organised Bourgeois elements in St. Paul's (Bulleu [Bullen?], Donald etc.) to take arms from the St. Paul's Militia Camp to go Mt. Walldale [Wheldale] to defend Maurice. That George had been removed from the P.B. and C.C.

I told Chalkie that he was mad that I could not believe what I was hearing about Maurice. Chalkie replied that it was Maurice who was power crazy. After that conversation with Chalkie I must have looked visibly shaken as both Frog (union officer) and my secretary asked me if something was wrong. I asked my secretary to cancel all appointments for the day. I then tried to get both Chess and Naz neither of whom was in office.

As I left the union office I saw Carl Johnson and others in front of the Party Secretariat. I went there and asked C.J. [Carl Johnson] for Chess. He said that Chess was still at the Power Station. There were all sort of excited bilateral taking place among party comrades at the secretariat. I left there and went directly back to Maurice's house. He was alone and I was told by the security to go into his bedroom.

I told Maurice about the rumour and related to him what Chalkie had said. He confirmed the unpleasant development but denied having anything to do with the origin of the rumour and organisation of armed vigilante. Maurice gave me a blood chilling account of what had happened at the C.C. meeting the day before [Wednesday, 12 October]. He said that members of the C.C., particularly Chalkie, kept pulling out their weapons threateningly during the whole meeting and that Fitzy [Fitzroy Bain] had freaked out partly as a result of that. I told Maurice that what was going on was madness, that the membership had a right to know and that he should lay everything bare before the membership in the general meeting planned for that afternoon [Thursday, 13 October]. He asked me what general meeting I was talking about. I explained that Chalkie [illeg.] told me that there was a meeting of all ranks of the party, from applicants up, to explain the present situation within the party.

Maurice explained that he had been at a meeting of the Central Committee until late the night before [and that no such general meeting had been proposed or agreed. He offered it as another example of the plotting against him and said he would not go. I pleaded with Maurice to attend the meeting as any other action may be interpreted by the membership as an admission of guilt. Maurice complained of not feeling well and said he really did not know whether he could stand the emotional strain of a meeting such as the last general meeting.

Eventually I got Maurice to agree for me to get a doctor, namely Bernard Gittens, to attend to him. At the same time, while I went for the doctor he was supposed to start putting his notes together for the meet-ing that afternoon so that even if he was given sedation by the doctor he would still be prepared at the meeting. As I left to go for the doctor I was worried not only about the state of the party and Maurice's physical health but the possibility of his committing suicide also crossed my mind.

As I was about to enter my car and leave I was approached by one of the Personnel Security men and told that I was under arrest. I was taken to under the mango tree in Bernard's yard and interviewed by Chalkie and Ian St. Bernard. I was told by the two comrades that the Central Committee had decided that I should be arrested for conspiring with Maurice. They could not answer conspiring about what and refused to say if Maurice was still a member of the C.C. In brief I explained to the comrades that I had not been involved in anything resembling conspiracy and was only going to get a doctor for Maurice. I asked him (St. B.) to send to get Dr. Gittens for Maurice while he clarified matters. He told me not to worry that a strong “delegation” would go to visit Maurice in a short while. I was then taken to my house and ordered to stay there or be formally detained. All arms and ammunition which I have always carried were taken away.

About 3.45 p.m. that afternoon I received a note through Chess from Ian St. Bernard authorising me to attend the general meeting of the party [Thursday, 13 October]. Given the extremely serious nature of what we were there to discuss, one would have thought that the discussions and decisions would have taken place in a calm and sober way. Instead led by members of the Political Bureau, the meeting was a horrendous display of militarism, hatred and emotional vilification. Never before have I witnessed this trend within our party and on no grounds can this conduct be justified.

This trend has continued in public and on the public media. A horrible lie is being spread that ‘Brat’ [Evelyn] Bullen and the other persons who went to the St. Paul's militia camp to collect arms did so to go and kill Bernard and Phyl. This is a lie known to the whole party. What was said by Chalkie to me on the morning of Thursday 13th and repeated at the general meeting by both H. A. and Owusu was that they had gone to get arms to go and protect ‘their Chief’ because he was in danger. Let me make it very clear, however that I disagree fundamentally with the action taken by that group and support the measures taken by the security forces.

In my over 10 years of association with our party never one day have I had reason to despair, not even when I was removed from the Political Bureau in 1981. For 20 years I have dreamt of building a socialist and communist society. We began our march forward with our Glorious Revolution but, today, by our own collective irresponsibility we have begun to cannabilise ourselves.

The crime that we are committing is not only against our Party, People and Revolution. Our crime is against the entire world revolutionary process and the Caribbean masses in particular.

You know no less than I that our Revolution is not irreversible. And while we brutally destroy ourselves, the corbeau [crow] of imperialism and reaction anxiously make preparation to pounce.

For the past four or five days I have stayed at home following the threats of Chalkie and Ian St. Bernard. Several comrades have checked me to find out what happened and my position on various things. I have made it clear that from the time I read the minutes and obtained some specific clarity on a few issues I accepted the decision on Joint Leadership. But even if I did not that is my right as a party member so long as I did not seek to subvert in anyway the Democratic Centralist decision of the party. Or have we now new norms?

For the past four or five days I have allowed myself to be confined as a counter-revolutionary criminal. Perhaps a conscious attempt is being made to push me into adventurous objectively counter-revolutionary activity so that I can be discredited afterwards. But that will never happen!

If I am to be sacrificed to suit the expediency of any person or persons then it is my duty as a communist to prevent it if I can. When I chose the road to revolution above all else including family I knew that I could be martyred at any time. But frankly, comrades, at no time did I vaguely dream that that threat would come from within our own party. My only crime is that I spoke to Maurice Bishop, chairman of our Central Committee and Prime Minister, in a principled way about the same things that all other comrades in the party were discussing in a million bilaterals.

I request that my letter be discussed by the C.C. and be circulated to all members of the party in the same way that the Resolution from the Armed Forces was circulated last Thursday 13th October.

Long live inner party democracy!

Long live our Party!

Long live Socialism and Communism!




*An ‘Afghan solution’ meant that any leader(s) the army disliked was done away with. Based on events between 1979 - 1980 in Afghanistan, the Nur Mohammad Taraki communist regime had taken power, lost the acceptance of Moscow, and he was murdered. Hafizullah Amin took power and was executed. He was replaced in 1980 by Barbrak Karmal, leader of the People's Democratic Party Parcham faction who was backed by Soviet troops.

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