The shame of Grenada 1983
Each year at this time my reflections on our reclamation and use of national independence are tempered by the painful memories of the tragedy in neighbouring Grenada, a mere four years after the Revolution of March 1979 had seemed to herald a new, bright chapter in Caribbean history. Last week, the social media was all abuzz with views and counter-opinions of the dramatic developments in Grenada during the first half of October 1983. Most tragic of these was the arrest of the popular leader of the Grenada revolution, Comrade Maurice Bishop, his subsequent murder along with a number of his colleagues, and the total collapse of an experiment in alternative governance, the Grenada Revolution.
It was the opening on which the enemies of the Revolution, led by the US government of Ronald Reagan, who understood the implications of the success of that Revolution for the entire Caribbean, were quick to capitalize. One group of Caribbean people, having committed political suicide, another group, this time regional leaders, committed another cardinal sin, shamelessly acquiescing to US plans for an invasion of that sovereign nation. With the late Dominica Prime Minister Eugenia Charles providing the fig-leaf of regional appeal for outside military interference, the mightiest military force on planet earth invaded a tiny Caribbean country of 344 square kilometres and approximately 100, 000 people. The veritable Goliath is almost 30,000 times the size of Grenada.
Of course there was no doubt about the outcome. Even when the Revolution was united and hot-blooded revolutionaries lustily sang, “Let dem come, let dem come, we will roll dem in the sea”, (with reference to a threatened US invasion), any such mismatch could only end in one way. In the context of a divided nation, its beloved leader gunned down, its people confused and no Caribbean nation in a position to help, Reagan’s forces at last got the opportunity to soothe the national ego following failed adventures in Korea and Cuba.
In spite of valiant resistance by pockets of brave Grenadians and Cuban workers, then constructing what is today proudly called the Maurice Bishop International Airport, it was all over in a couple of days. Grenada bombed into submission, those who had vowed never to surrender, safely in US incarceration, an “Interim Regime” installed, and the mass of the Caribbean people in total confusion as to what had really happened, how and why it ended like that.
To this day these are still unanswered questions. After almost four decades we are yet to be told the truth of what took place in Grenada in October 1983 and the possible reasons for it. Instead, led by the “progressive’ forces throughout the region, rather than focus on the assault on Caribbean sovereignty, we engaged in a lot of foolish and selfish recriminations,, dividing ourselves into “Coardites” and supporters of Bishop, ignoring the fact that the positive achievements of the Grenada Revolution, were to be slaughtered on the altar of the US propaganda machine.
No effort was spared to denigrate the Grenada Revolution, in spite of the temporary crocodile tears about the fate of Maurice Bishop and his “followers”. The same red “communist” brush was used to paint all who supported the Revolution be they left, centre, democrat, Christian, Muslim or Rastafarian. Confused, waddling in ignorance about what happened in Grenada, divided over who was “right” and who “wrong”, a game in which leaders of the Caribbean progressive movement not only participated but led, we failed to understand that the strategic goal of US imperialism was to drum home the message, “never try that again”.
We swallowed the line that Fidel Castro and Cuba were using Grenada as a beachhead to make the whole Caribbean “communist”, even though Cuba had roundly condemned the coup as stoutly as it opposed US intervention. We even fooled ourselves that with the threat of “communism” gone, the way was paved for massive US investment in the region. Eugenia Charles’ supposed letter requesting US intervention never brought the promised international airport to Dominica and up to now US economic, financial and trade actions hinder more than assist our economic development. Where are the fruits of the intervention?
Worst of all, almost forty years later, we are yet to get an honest account of what happened in Grenada, and the Caribbean people are none the wiser because of it. It was not just a setback for Grenada, the entire Caribbean suffered as a result. The 1983 events took place at a time when the positive image of the Revolution was just beginning to impact the rest of the region. Following the invasion, the entire region took a rightist turn. Progressive parties and individuals were maligned and all progressive thought and ideas swamped under by the false “democracy” tide of US propaganda.
The USA did not intervene to “save” either “democracy” or Grenada. It cares not for our sterile accusations about “Coardites” or “Bishopites”, the aim was to let us know that we must stay in line, don’t seek alternative paths of development, don’t pursue independent thought. The murder of Bishop opened the door not just to military intervention but to re-impose foreign domination in the region. It is the most serious crime against Caribbean progress in modern history. But, resist we must………
(To be continued)
l Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.