Tag Archives: colonialism

Grenada: Gairy, Bishop, Balance or Coup

PM Eric Matthew Gairy

Grenada PM Eric Matthew Gairy

Eric Gairy held the posts of Chief Minister in the Federation of the West Indies (1957-1962) and became prime minister of Grenada in 1967. During this period, the main opposition to the GULP came from the Grenada National Party (GNP). Gairy argued that Grenada should be granted its independence from Britain. Being a “puppet” for many years prior, it was feared that he would install himself as a dictator over Grenada if independence was dictated on his terms.

 Maurice Bishop meets the Grenadian people, in a still from Bruce Paddington's film Forward Ever.

Maurice Bishop meets the Grenadian people, in a still from Bruce Paddington’s film Forward Ever.

Maurice Bishop returned to Grenada in 1969 after studying law in England. Soon afterwards he helped form the Movement for Assemblies of the People (MAP) and the Movement for the Advance of Community (MACE). In 1973 these organizations merged with Joint Endeavor for Welfare, Education and Liberation (JEWEL) to establish the New Jewel Movement (NJM).

In May 1973, Gairy visited London where it was agreed that Grenada would become independent in February, 1974. On 1st January 1974 the New Jewel Movement called a national strike and a Committee of 22 was established by the trade unions, civic organizations and the church to demonstrate against him Gairy.

Manifesto of the New Jewel Movement:
The people are being cheated and have been cheated for too long-cheated by both parties, for over twenty years. Nobody is asking what the people want. We suffer low wages and higher cost of living while the politicians get richer, live in bigger houses and drive around in even bigger cars. The government has done nothing to help people build decent houses; most people still have to walk miles to get water to drink after 22 years of politicians.

If we fall sick we catch hell to get quick and cheap medical treatment. Half of us can’t find steady work. The place is getting from bad to worse every day – except for the politicians (just look at how they dress and how they move around). The police are being used in politics these days and people are getting more and more blows from them. Government workers who don’t toe the Gairy line are getting fired left and right.

The government has no idea how to improve agriculture, how to set up industries, how to improve housing, health, education and general well-being of the people. They have no ideas for helping the people. All they know is how to take the people’s money for themselves, while the people scrape and scrunt for a living.

We believe that the main concern of us all is to (1) prevent the daily rise in prices of all our food and clothes and other essentials (it is unbelievable but that the price you can get for a pound of cocoa can’t buy a half-pound of fish) and (2) develop a concrete program for raising the standard of housing, living, education, health, food and recreation for all the people.

The present situation we face is that we are forced to live in jammed-up, rundown, unpainted houses without toilet and bath, without running water, very poor roads, overcrowded schools where our children can’t get a decent education … We can’t afford the cost of food to feed our children properly and this makes it easier for them to catch all kinds of illnesses. There are very few places near home for recreation. All we have is the rum shop to drown our troubles. It’s almost impossible to buy clothes or shoes these days. The prices are ridiculous.

On 21st January 1974, demonstrators were attacked by police. Several people were injured and Rupert Bishop, Maurice‘s father and the leader of the New Jewel Movement was killed.

_62889134_grenada_eric_gairy_bbcWe are now completely free, liberated, independent. In spite of a wicked, malicious, obstructive, destructive minority of noise-making self-publicists, God has heard our prayers. God has been merciful. God has triumphed.

Eric Gairy, speech 7th February 1974

Eric Gairy and his Grenada United Labour Party won the elections held on 7th November, 1976. However, opposition leaders complained that all election officials were members of GULP and that they had tampered with the voting papers.

The police and military would soon begin “counter insurgency” training from the Chilean Military.

Eric Gairy Prime Minister Eric Gairy of Grenada and President Jimmy Carter meet in the White House on September 9, 1977.

Eric Gairy and President Jimmy Carter meet in the White House on September 9, 1977.

United States State Department reported on the activities of Eric Gairy in 1978 and found that the formation of the infamous “Mongoose Gang” in the early 1970’s – law enforcement agencies outside the provision of the law of the state – was responsible for a series of unspeakable atrocities and terror campaigns against the Grenada citizenry. In 1979 a rumor circulated that Gairy planned to use his Gang to assassinate leaders of the New Jewel Movement while he was out of the country. On 13th March 1979, Maurice Bishop and the NJM took over the nation’s radio station and the rest of the country with the support of the people.

 “Sir Eric Gairy appealed to the US and British for help in capturing what he described as a ‘small group of Communists.'”  ON THIS DAY, 13th March 1979 – BBC

Influenced by the ideas of Marxists like Fidel CastroChe Guevara and Daniel Ortega, Maurice Bishop began establishing Workers’ Councils in Grenada. He received aid from the Soviet Union and Cuba and with this money constructed an aircraft runway to improve tourism. Bishop attempted to develop a good relationship with the United States and allowed private enterprise to continue on the island. His actions improved the welfare of the common Grenadian, and the country as a whole, with improvements across every social measure.

Maurice Bishop with Fidel Castro, 26 July, 1983

Maurice Bishop with Fidel Castro, 26 July, 1983

Bernard Coard, the Minister of Finance, disagreed with Bishops efforts, as did United States foreign policy objectives. On 19th October, with the support of the army, Minister Coard overthrew the government. Maurice Bishop and several others, including Unison Whiteman (Foreign Minister), Jacqueline Creft (Minister of Education and Women’s Affairs), Norris Bain (Minister of Housing) and Fitzroy Bain (President of the Agricultural and General Workers Union) were arrested and executed.

Reagan being apprised of the situation as the U.S. invasion of Grenada.


Democracy requires inequity and a reaction to it, representative of the Peoples resolve.

Q:How to avert loss of life in on the road to revolution
Q:How to protect self-interest and democratic outcomes in the aftermath

A?:Rule of law, reconciliation, civic reorganization, and popularization of civic involvement.

ideas from:

Wilder, Ann Elizabeth. The Grenada Revolution Online: http://www.thegrenadarevolutiononline.com/gairya.html

Lewis, Patsy. excerpts: Social Policies in Grenada
Found Online: http://books.google.com/books?id=AMpGrBP507sC&pg=PA27&lpg=PA27&dq=grenada+social+reforms&source=bl&ots=TyFt2v89dO&sig=9XWy0CWEq3qp816amWhkWJhqIN8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=0_ArUaG7BKKV0QHL-IHYAg&ved=0CHIQ6AEwCTgK#v=onepage&q&f=false

Ferguson, James. Grenada: Revolution in Reverse. Found online: http://dajialai.org/ziliao1/monthly%20review%20press/Grenada%20%20revolution%20in%20reverse%20%20James%20Ferguson.pdf

Williams, Dessima. Summary of Speech to United Nations, 1 October 2012. Found online:

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AFRICA: Reactions To Colonialism

Ashanti War

Ashanti War

Europeans made headway into Africa by making associations with disaffected ethnic groups—who hoped that the newcomers would provide leverage over territorial disputes with other groups.  Some initially welcomed the Europeans, but eventually all would resist European occupation. In the west, the coastal Fante Confederation, weak from raids of the nearby Asante, would side with the British; in the east, the Buganda province would align with against the dominant Bunyoro.[1] European powers capitalized on regional conflict to at first gain footing on the continent, and then secondly, to undermine the native ruling structures of the interior. The Europeans conducted long wars against holdout groups, which fought with both conventional and guerrilla tactics, such as the Islamic empire of Samory Touré, which held a resistance for nearly 20 years against French rule in West Africa at the end of the 19th century.[2]

Defeat for Africans meant a new means of tribute. The European model of taxation for the purpose of capitalizing work projects was introduced to the continent, as a means of self-sufficiency for the European colonies. Hut taxes, Head taxes, and a host of other taxes were introduced upon the Africans who never had to pay such things.[3] Failure to pay taxes, would force conscription into a forced labor gang to build improvements desired by the European nations, which mainly consisted of roads and railways to coastal ports, but nary a road between neighboring groups. Africans were also pressed into mine work, and other dangerous duties by the local chief, who was only crafting the work detail out of a European demand from higher up.

Avoidance of taxation and forced labor could lead to imprisonment; another system foreign to the continent.[4] Prior to physical incarceration, punishments were closer to moral judgments and self-reflection. The true leaders of the people were often jailed, for instigating rebellion, or on the fear they might, and it is from this practice that Africa, again, was forced into chains and captivity, and suffered the loss their human capital. Though the slave trade purportedly ceased, a new model of slavery replaced it, one of economic and political servitude. All the while, Africans were being dispossessed of their lands, and forced into meager reservations of poor soil, which would sew “the incipient seeds of future African nationalism.”

Where once the Europeans were welcomed by certain parties, when the demands that were placed upon their enemies were eventually then put upon them, they too, were forced to rebellion in their own self-interest. In what is described as the Secondary Reaction to European colonialism, the ethnic groups that initially welcomed the Europeans would rebel against them, when taxation, forced labor, imprisonment and land alienation began to be imposed on them, in addition to their enemies. The opportunity for alliance was too late, and these rebellions were suppressed, forcing Africa into compliance with the European colonial objectives.

[1] Amii Omara-Otunu, Lecture, University of Connecticut, September 24th, 2013.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Amii Omara-Otunu, Lecture, University of Connecticut, September 26th, 2013.

[4] Ibid.

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Colonial Remnants in Zimbabwe

Salisbury/Harare in the 1960's

Salisbury/Harare in the 1960’s

There are very few colonial influences left in Zimbabwe, besides the leftovers of Rhodesian infrastructure (roads, hospitals, schools, dams).  Some of this still bears colonial names, but Mugabe has been vigorous in his attempt to erase colonial history.  One glaring exception is Victoria Falls, a popular attraction that has kept the name (at least on the Zimbabwe side) given by Livingston in his exploration of the Zambezi.

The country is a parliamentary type, probably also a remnant of colonial political structure, but kept more or less as a gift opportunity to powerful Zimbabweans loyal to Mugabe; the government is largely ineffective.  The infrastructure left over from colonial Rhodesia was kept in relatively decent condition post independence, until radical policy shifts by Mugabe. The current, longstanding, economic crisis that has gripped the country prevents adequate funding; schools have closed, roads are in miserable condition, and hospitals are ill equipped to handle the present cholera epidemic.



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