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Political pioneer joins list of lost idealists - PNP founder Richard Hart dies at 96

Published:Tuesday | December 24, 2013 | 12:00 AM

 Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

In life, Richard Hart was no political dinosaur, but was said to be like an ideological dragon espousing inflammable beliefs throughout the land - at least, many thought they were.

In death, Hart is, for the most part, remembered as one of the four Hs in the People's National Party (PNP) who were unceremoniously booted by party President Norman Manley in the colourful, ideologically flavoured days nearly 60 years ago.

In life, Hart joined some impressive personalities across the globe who enriched the deeply ideological period that marked the early days of his life.

In death, he joined other tough-talking politicians elsewhere on the globe, who were not afraid to stand up for their strong and sometimes controversial beliefs, commanding personalities such as Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain, both of whom also died in 2013.

As Mandela would be punished behind prison bars, so would Hart and his three left-leaning cohorts be ignominiously booted from their socialist-oriented party.


For his belief, Richard Hart would not be silenced, as the radical firebrand politician, who died last Saturday at age 96, was much more than a spit-fire orator.

Hart, who was involved in the trade union movement throughout the Caribbean, was an ally of Cheddi Jagan in Guyana, and was attorney general under Prime Minister Maurice Bishop in Grenada.

In 2011, Professor Rupert Lewis of the University of the West Indies (UWI) aptly and skillfully summed up Hart in this fashion: "Richard Hart is really a pioneer in securing Caribbean unity."

In recent years, institutions including the Institute of Jamaica and UWI have recognised his work.

In November 2005, Hart was awarded the Musgrave Gold Medal by the Institute of Jamaica for his work as an historian.


That month, he was also given an honorary degree from the UWI. In June 2006, Hart's work was the focus of a three-day conference at the UWI's Mona campus in St Andrew.

In life, Hart would noise his views near and far - views which would land him in trouble.

A member of the Hart family, an established name in Jamaican commerce, he was an unapologetic Marxist who supported the ill-fated West Indies Federation. And so, he, along with Arthur Henry and brothers Frank and Ken Hill were sent packing.

After his expulsion from the PNP, Hart formed the People's Freedom Movement (later the Socialist Party of Jamaica) in 1954 which folded in 1962.

Later, Hart established strong ties with the socialist-oriented Jagan and Bishop, the leader of the ill-fated New Jewel Movement in Grenada, both of whom turned out to be two of the most controversial figures in the post-colonial Caribbean.