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Gonsalves’ 40 deserves more

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I was present among thousands, in a personal and (my favourite) low-key role at Black Point last Saturday night at the event organized by the Unity Labour Party to pay tribute to the achievement of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves for forty unbroken years of political service Generally, I tend to stay clear of decidedly political partisan activities, but such is Dr. Gonsalves’ contribution that it behoved my presence..{{more}}

According to ULP Party Chairman, Edwin Snagg, the idea of honouring Dr. Gonsalves’ contribution belongs to veteran political activist and socialist, Casper London. All praise to him. Casper has been an indefatigable comrade and supporter of “De Comrade” through thick and thin. His own four decades of struggle needs recognition and persons like myself ought to do something about it. The Black Point initiative was certainly a most worthwhile gesture.

Naturally, Ralph’s detractors had all sorts of things to say about it. Like all of us, “De Comrade” is not without his faults and weaknesses, and, as happens with many major political figures, these can sometimes be less than minor. Yet, when the balance sheet is complied, there is no doubting that Ralph Gonsalves has become a major factor in our political history during his forty-year political life, and his influence on our political, social and economic development cannot be denied. It is one thing to oppose someone’s politics, another to set out to deliberately degrade that person or to ignore the cause of history. Ralph’s detractors base their opposition either on their disagreement with his style of politics and personal weaknesses, or, much more fundamentally on ideological grounds.

This latter has been a long-standing feature ever since the days of his strident socialist rhetoric. There are some, blinded by ideological blinkers and class prejudice who see “red” behind every major social or political move of his. Many are still trapped in the cold war ideology of anti-communism, as irrelevant an ideology to today’s world as the pro-Soviet ideology which collapsed in the nineties. For some others, who were fortunate to benefit from the anti-Labour bloc of the Joshua era, Ralph’s revival of a moribund Labour Party only adds grist to the mill.

Indeed, the ULP had every reason to shower praise on Ralph Gonsalves, for without him, where would Labour be today? “De Comrade’s” record and achievements in government since 2001 is certainly impressive but is not the purpose of this article. What was clear from the Black Point event is that the ULP, besides honouring Ralph, had its sights firmly fixed on the next general elections. This in turn influenced the nature of the event, not always in a positive direction.

But Ralph is bigger that. While Black Point may shore up the ULP-ites, his contributions go way beyond that. Having got into this mold, most of the local speakers found it difficult to make clear assessments of his massive contributions. Alarming, some discreetly glossed over major periods of our political history and jumped to the MNU/ULP era. It says much of “De Comrade” and young Camillo Gonsalves that they were the ones to speak of the YULIMO/UPM era. It was to the credit of Sir Vincent Beache that he did not attempt to sweep old differences under the carpet, while Julian Francis did an excellent job on the 1968 Ralph Gonsalves.

Now that the ULP side of the honouring has passed, maybe some thought would now be devoted to organizing other activities in tribute to Ralph. Even in ULP terms, a seminar for young activists, including the young Parliamentarians, on different aspects of his life work, can be of immense benefit to them, to the much broader and not restricted to supports alone, would allow for greater public debate and appreciation of the real worth of Ralph Gonslaves.

Black point was a worthwhile start, but Ralph deserves more than that!

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.