The Hew Jewel- Revolution in Grenada

September 25, 2007

"People of Grenada, this revolu- tion is for work, for food, for decent housing and health facilities and for a bright future for our children
and great grand-children."
So proclaimed the new Prime
Minister of the People's Revolu-
tionary Government (PRG) of
Grenada on March 13, 1979, just
hours after the People's Revolu-
tionary Army (PRA) staged a suc-
cessful coup against the tyrannical
regime of Prime Minister Eric Gairy.
Although the coup itself was
sudden and unexpected, Gairy's
overthrow should come as no sur-
prise. In the two decades during
which he ruled Grenada, Gairy--a
mystic preoccupied with UFOs--
became the most repressive
leader in the English-speaking
Caribbean. His transgressions of
democratic principles are legion:
legislation was enacted curtailing
the right of assembly, freedom of
speech and expression, and out-
lawing all trade unions other than
the Grenada Manual Maritime and
Intellectual Workers' Union (GM-
MIWU) whose President-General-
For-Life was Gairy himself; misuse
of public funds, electoral fraud and
corruption and incompetence in
the civil service were ubiquitous;
the mafia was allowed a dominant
financial interest in nightclubs and
other businesses; and Gairy's per-
sonal body guard, the Mongoose
Gang, intimidated and terrorized
the general populace.
Moreover, while Gairy exploited
his position to acquire extensive
property holdings and amass a
personal fortune, Grenada's work-
ing people suffered a very low and
declining standard of living. With
unemployment at 50%, an ex-
traordinary increase in the rate of
inflation and the imposition of new
taxes on certain consumption
goods and services, Gairyism ex-
perienced a tremendous surge of
opposition in the past decade.
The most significant expression
of that opposition was the New
Jewel Movement-whose leader-
ship organized the revolution of
March 13 and now constitutes the
leadership of the PRG. The Move-
ment was born in the merger of
two groups similarly committed to
grassroots organization for
democratic ends. In 1972 the Joint
Endeavor for Welfare, Education
and Liberation (JEWEL) was found-
ed by Selwyn Strachan, and
Unison Whiteman-now, respec-
tively, Minister of Communications
and Works and Labor and Minister
of Agriculture, Tourism and
Fisheries. About that same time,
Maurice Bishop and Kendrick
Radix-now, respectively, Prime
Minister and Ambassador to the
Prime Minister Maurice Bishop
United Nations-founded the
Movement for Assemblies of the
People (MAP).
When the two groups merged in
1973, Grenada had already com-
pleted negotiations with Britain
regarding its colonial status;
Grenada's imminent independ-
ence-to become effective in
February 1974-provided the con-
text and unifying theme for the
program proposed by the NJM in
its 1973 Manifesto. Arguing that
political independence could only
be meaningful if economic
dependence and the resulting
poverty were overcome, the
Manifesto urged increased em-
phasis on domestic production of
food, clothing and construction
materials and even medicines
(from local herbs), the expansion
of the fishing and food processing
industries and the organization of
economic activity in cooperatives.
Such planned economic develop-
ment would ensure increased
employment, a decreased cost of
living and equitable distribution of
NACLA Reportupdate . update * update . update
the economic fruits, and thereby
raise the standard of living of
Grenada's vast majority-the
working people.
It was also argued that genuine
independence requires the con-
tinuous involvement of all the peo-
ple in the process of political
decision-making, i.e., genuine
democracy. Toward that end the
Manifesto proposed as the future
form of government, a system of
People's Assemblies in which
membership is required of and
guaranteed to all; each Village and
Workers Assembly would have
equal representation in the Na-
tional Assembly, the country's
governing body.
As a result of its continued and
successful grassroots organiza-
tion, the NJM incurred Gairy's
wrath and its members were often
victims of harassment, beatings
and even murder. (Bishop's father
was assassinated at a 1974 mass
demonstration.) Their bid to oust
Gairy in 1976 via an electoral
alliance with the Grenada National
Party (GNP)-the party of the ur-
ban middle class-and a smaller,
right-wing party, only intensified
the Prime Minister's repressive
stance. But Gairy was unable to
stop their activities, and, on March
13, 1979, even his Chilean-trained
defense forces could not prevent
their seizure and consolidation of
state power in a period of less than
24 hours.
In the immediate aftermath of
the coup, an interim governing
body-the PRG-was estab-
lished. It is now composed of 23
members-12 NJM members, 2
GNP members and 9 members of
predominantly working-class origin
who were rural supporters of the
NJM. This body will continue to
function as the government until
the new constitution is drafted (the
Gairy Constitution was suspended)
and approved by referendum, and
subsequently, new elections are
Enjoying broad popular support,
the PRG has turned its energies to
the tremendous challenge of na-
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tional reconstruction.
Since assuming power, the PRG
has shunned any ideological
labels; in response to calls by
various Caribbean leftists to "go
beyond bourgeois democracy" to
"socialism," Prime Minister
Bishop has replied only that "We
will feel our way. But we will take
whatever steps necessary to get
greater control of our resources
and to end imperialist domination
of our economy." With that in
mind, the government has begun
to attack the most flagrant abuses
of the neocolonial trade relation-
Grenada is an agricultural coun-
try where most of the land under
cultivation is owned and operated
by a small local elite and produces
agricultural goods for export, es-
pecially cocoa, bananas and
nutmeg. (Grenada, which
achieved early fame as "The
Spice Island," is the world's
largest producer of nutmeg.) The
grave consequences of this form
of agricultural organization have
been experienced by under-
developed countries around the
world. On the one hand, the raw
agricultural exports face a buyers'
market, and the consequent low
prices paid by transnational
agribusiness corporations
translate into limited foreign ex-
change reserves. On the other
hand, severe limitations on local
food production make imperative
the importation of processed
foods at monopoly prices, signal-
ling both an increased cost of liv-
ing and a drain on foreign ex-
change reserves. For example,
Grenada sold a half-pound of
cocoa for $1.25 Eastern Carib-
41update update update * update
bean Currency (ECC) for process-
ing abroad; upon return, a half-
pound of processed cocoa cost
Grenadians $9.25 ECC. The
general pattern that results is a
decreased standard of living for
working people, balance of
payments crises and an explosion
in the public debt.
To stem the erosion in the
standard of living, the PRG created
an Import-Export Board which im-
mediately effected a 15% and
30% price reduction on rice and
sugar imports, respectively.
Beyond that, the government,
following the 1973 NJM program,
has undertaken the development
of an agro-industrial sector based
on local products-processing
and canning fruits, fruit juices and
nectars-and the modernization
of the fishing industry. Also idle
land, some of which was acquired
by the state during the Gairy
regime, has been brought into
cultivation. Lettuce farms have
already been planted, harvested
and exported to Trinidad-Tobago
-even before the PRG's first an-
niversary. And one of the goals for
1980 is the planting of one million
cocoa, nutmeg and banana trees.
A priority of the new govern-
ment is the development of the
tourist industry, which accounts
for 35% of the country's
revenues. In an effort to stimulate
tourism, the government is con-
structing a new International Air-
port and a highway connecting the
airport to main parts of the island.
And, in order to guarantee that the
industry's income remains in
Grenada-in the past, 90C of
every tourist dollar spent in-
Grenada returned abroad-local
and foreign hotel proprietors are
being encouraged to utilize local
foods, entertainment, handicrafts
and other goods and services.
If successful, these projects will
increase employment, decrease
the rate of inflation and increase
foreign exchange reserves.
Private-including foreign--
capital is considered necessary
for economic development; how-
ever, investors will be made aware
of specific guidelines aimed at in-
tegrating all investment activity in-
to the overall development plan.
Similarly, foreign banks operating
in Grenada-such as Barclay's,
the Royal Bank of Canada and the
Bank of Nova Scotia-have been
notified that they are welcome to
stay (contrary to the 1973
Manifesto which called for na-
tionalization of the banks), but
must make credit available for
development projects.
The government is pursuing a
policy of non-alignment (it was
represented at the most recent
Conference of Non-Aligned Na-
tions, held in Havana) and has
sought economic assistance from
both capitalist and socialist coun-
tries. Cuba, with whom the PRG
established diplomatic relations
soon after March 13, is providing
$25 million and 250 workers for
the construction of the Interna-
tional Airport and highway. It has
also provided the new government
a health team and other techni-
cians, and has accepted Grena-
dian students for various courses
of study. Venezuela has agreed to
contribute $500,000 and an addi-
tional $230,000 export financing
loan. In contrast, the United
States, "displeased" by the PRG's
ties to Cuba, has offered the strug-
gling nation a paltry $5,000
assistance for each of several
small projects.
The PRG has made significant
gestures toward economic in-
dependence via its present
strategy. However, the question
must be posed as to the limits of
that strategy, since similar efforts
throughout the third world have
failed to break the chains of
dependence and poverty; on what
basis, then, can we assume that
Grenada can escape the tentacles
of imperialism?
Although the revolution must
confront, over the long-term, the
pernicious domination of global
capitalism-a far greater danger
than the destabilization tactics of
the revolution's opponents, or U.S.
hostility to the regime-the new
government has already been able
to make a difference in the daily
lives of working people. Along with
the creation of new jobs, and the
decrease in the cost of certain
consumption items, the leadership
has made important headway
toward the creation of genuine
democracy. Among its other ac-
complishments, it has established
two-way communication channels
with the population; encouraged
and created mechanisms for
mass participation and the
development of national con-
sciousness; welcomed the par-
ticipation of women and set a na-
tional goal of "equal pay for equal
work;" organized a literacy cam-
paign; and opened village-level
Centers for Popular Education.
The people have responded with
enthusiasm, apparent confidence
in the leadership and a new at-
titude about themselves.
With an intelligent leadership
committed to the improvement of
the quality of life of its constituen-
cy, a mass popular base and a will-
ingness to explore new solutions
for old problems, the PRG should
be able to attain at least some of
its goals.

Tags: Grenada, coup, PM Eric Gairy, New Jewel, PM Maurice Bishop

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