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Vol. 81/No. 3      January 16, 2017

(Books of the Month column)

U.S. rulers saw Grenada’s Revolution as dangerous

Maurice Bishop Speaks: The Grenada Revolution and Its Overthrow 1979-83 is one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for January. It contains speeches and interviews given by Bishop, the central leader of the Grenada Revolution. In March 1979 workers and farmers led by Bishop and the New Jewel Movement toppled the Eric Gairy dictatorship and took power. Bishop served as prime minister until October 1983, when what Cuban leader Fidel Castro called a “Pol Pot group,” led by Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard, overthrew the revolution and murdered Bishop, opening the door to U.S. military invasion. The excerpt below is from a speech given to an audience of over 2,500 at Hunter College in New York City in June 1983. Copyright © 1983 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

The revolution in Grenada started from a base under Gairy of 49 percent unemployment — one in every two people who wanted to work couldn’t get a job. And among women, 70 percent unemployment, seven out of every ten could not get a job. Therefore at the dawn of the revolution over 22,000 people who wanted to work could not find work. When we did a census last year, April 1982, the unemployment rate had dropped from 49 percent to 14.2 percent. [Applause]

In the days of Hurricane Gairy — those twenty-nine years of economic, political, social, and spiritual devastation of our country and of our people — there was no such thing as a plan. There was no such thing as a capital investment program, partly because Gairy was a mystic and therefore he didn’t have to plan. But also partly because he was so corrupt that nobody was willing in any event to put even ten cents in his hand unless they sent down ten police to check what’s happening to their ten cents. So in those days we had nothing called a public investment program. And when it got going it was on the basis of very small, feeble advances. The last year of Gairy, 1978, the capital investment program was $8 million. The first year of the revolution that figure was doubled to $16 million. The second year of the revolution it was more than doubled again to $39.9 million.

The experts were saying that this is impossible — you don’t have the resources, you don’t have the management, you don’t have enough tractors, you don’t have any trucks, you don’t have enough engineers, you cannot possibly do it. You are only lucky in 1979 when you doubled Gairy’s. And you are only lucky in 1980 again when you doubled your own. And then when we went to 1981 and we doubled it again, they said, we know you have the luck, but something is wrong.

And last year in 1982 it went up to over $100 million, and then we gave them the secret: we told them that in a revolution things operate differently than in the normal situation. [Applause] We have been able to make these accomplishments because in Grenada, consistent with our three pillars of the revolution — where the first pillar is our people who are always at the center and heart and focus of all our activities — we are able to mobilize and organize people to cut out waste, to cut corruption, to stamp out inefficiency, to move to planning, to look out for production, to check on productivity, to make sure that state enterprises are not set up to be subsidized but that state enterprises, too, must become viable, must make a profit, and therefore the state sector will have the surplus to bring the benefits.

Our people have gladly been pulled into the economic process because our people see the benefits which the revolution has brought them. They understand that when thirty-seven cents out of every dollar is spent on health and education that means something. …

But the point I’m making, sisters and brothers, is the nature of the struggle that we have undergone, not only to raise production and productivity, but to instill new values in our people. As we struggle on the road towards creating a new man and a new woman, living a new life, in what we know will become a new civilization, the old culture, the old habits, the old prejudices are always there struggling against the shoots of the new. That is a struggle that we have to resolutely wage every single day of our lives.

But it is much easier for our people to make those sacrifices. It is much easier for them to accept the importance of doing these things which they have not been in the habit of doing, because now they know that for the first time material benefits are coming. Our people now understand that what they put out will come back, whether through free health care or free education or the number of jobs created. …

Our people, therefore, have a greater and deeper understanding of what the revolution means and what it has brought to them. They certainly understand very, very clearly that when some people attack us on the grounds of human rights, when some people attack us on the grounds of constituting a threat to the national security of other countries, our people understand that is foolishness. They know the real reason has to do with the fact of the revolution and the benefits that the revolution is bringing to the people of our country. The real reason for all of this hostility is because some perceive that what is happening in Grenada can lay the basis for a new socioeconomic and political path of development.

They give all kinds of reasons and excuses — some of them credible, some utter rubbish. We saw an interesting one recently in a secret report to the State Department. I want to tell you about that one, so you can reflect on it. That secret report made this point: that the Grenada revolution is in one sense even worse — I’m using their language — than the Cuban and Nicaraguan revolutions because the people of Grenada and the leadership of Grenada speak English, and therefore can communicate directly with the people of the United States. [Applause]

I can see from your applause, sisters and brothers, that you agree with the report. But I want to tell you what that same report said that also made us very dangerous. That is that the people of Grenada and the leadership of Grenada are predominantly Black. [Applause] They said that 95 percent of our population is Black — and they had the correct statistic — and if we have 95 percent of predominantly African origin in our country, then we can have a dangerous appeal to 30 million Black people in the United States. [Applause] Now that aspect of the report, clearly, is one of the most sensible.  
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