Thu | Dec 14, 2017

Annie Paul | What really happened in Grenada? (Part 2)

Published:Wednesday | September 27, 2017 | 12:09 AM
Bernard Coard (left) and Hudson Austin are shown in Richmond Prison, St George's, Grenada, after American troops turned them over to Caribbean security forces.

In this column, I continue my reportage of the launch of Bernard Coard’s book The Grenada Revolution: What Really Happened? Put on by the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies on September 15, the anticipation-filled event fully lived up to its promise.

One of the enduring beliefs about the unhappy events of October 19, 1983, when Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, along with several Cabinet ministers and other supporters, was lined up at Fort Rupert and assassinated was that the orders to kill him came directly from the Workers Party of Jamaica (WPJ), from none other than someone in leadership at the time.

The question of Trevor Munroe’s role came up more than once at the launch, the first time during Professor Rupert
Lewis’ eloquently articulated response to Coard’s book. Lewis, who had lived in Prague 1982-84 as a representative of the WPJ on the World Marxist Review, a theoretical journal containing jointly produced content by communist and workers’ parties from around the world. As such, Lewis had direct access to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. What he said was this:

“The letter that Trevor sent to me to deliver to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union basically said there were two trends in the New Jewel Movement (NJM). 

“There was a working-class trend, a proletarian trend led by Bernard, and a petit bourgeois trend led by Maurice. I was very angry at this simplistic portrayal of the complex struggle that had taken place in Grenada.”

Coard’s own response to the question of Munroe’s role was passionate, his voice rising an octave or two: “With respect to the role of anybody, any Jamaicans, and in particular the WPJ, let me just say this: Rupert’s critique of myself and all of us in the leadership in Grenada was based on the fact that we were very jealous of the little piece of sovereignty that we had. We bad for wi piece of sovereignty. 

"We will decide everything ourselves, we will listen to advice but we will take our own decisions. Listen, if people givin’ us arms and training and economic help, and help with our international airport, and we weren’t prepared to let them dictate to us, you think Trevor Munroe or anybody could tell us what to do in the Grenada Revolution? Come on, get serious.

“Call it petty nationalism if you want, but that nationalism runs very deep ... . I don’t agree that people helping us have a right to tell us what to do ... . I make no apologies for that.”

Coard’s own response to the speakers before him was methodical, articulated in nine points. 

He started by describing how painful the process of writing the book had been, how he had been unable to write for the first 19 years in prison despite being urged to do so by many, and had finally decided to do so because there had been hundreds of thousands of articles published on the Grenada Revolution during that period, most of them by outsiders, almost exclusively detailing one side of events.

After outlining his methodology (extensive use of contemporaneously kept minutes and court documents) and objectives for writing this memoir (to document the mistakes they made), which he said would be the first of several volumes, Coard mentioned two things that to me are worth highlighting. He said a study of US actions in Grenada, not just at the end, but throughout the life of the revolution, “would help to cast light for those who are interested, in happenings going on right now in various parts of the world”.

“You cannot understand what is going on in Venezuela unless you understand what we went through in Grenada. And just like we made mistakes from the beginning, the Venezuelans are making mistakes. But the fact of the matter is that it is one thing to make mistakes and to suffer the consequences of those mistakes. 

It’s another thing to have a very powerful country deciding that in addition to whatever stumbling you make on your own I’m going to make sure you can’t get up and walk.” Coard said that despite having held 11 elections, Chavez was consistently referred to as a dictator by US media.

The next point Coard made was that on August 9, 2017, an article had appeared in the Washington Post, by a specialist on North Korea, Benjamin Young, in which he details the connection between Reagan’s decision to invade Grenada and the current potentiality for nuclear war between the USA and North Korea. Kim Il-Sung’s fear that North Korea would be next in line for a Grenada-style invasion led to an investment in nuclear weapons as a deterrent, a “delayed fuse” as Coard put it that we are confronted with today.

A sobering note to end on.

- Annie Paul is a writer and critic based at the University of the West Indies and author of the blog, Active Voice (anniepaul.net). Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.comor tweet @anniepaul.