I thank the Pan African Movement of Guyana for inviting me to say a few words on the general theme: ‘In the footsteps of Kofi: referencing the Grenadian revolution of 13th March 1979’.
The invitation suggested that I knew the late Maurice Bishop, the leader of that revolution, but my interaction with Maurice in around the 1976/78 period was no more than that of passing acquaintance. Maurice came a few times to the Office of the General Secretary of the PNC and Ministry of National Development to speak with Elvin McDavid, who was then the Executive Secretary of the Department of Planning and Research in which I was in charge of the research, and I ran into Maurice once or twice. What he and McDavid spoke about I have no idea, but I did surmise that it had to do with his New Jewel Movement (NJM) winning support for his struggle against the dictatorial Eric Gairy regime. After all, from a socialist standpoint, whatever we may have thought about the Burnham regime at home, in some Caribbean socialist circles it was considered more progressive than other Caribbean governments. Indeed, it was around this same time that Burnham stunned even me when around this time in a New Year press interview with the late Kester Alves he proclaimed that the PNC was committed to Marxism/Leninism: an ideological standpoint from which I tended to stay clear.
Once the Grenadian revolution was mentioned in the invitation, events at home and in our neighbourhood quickly came to mind. Regardless of one’s assessment of Maurice Bishop and his revolution, one cannot fail to appreciate that it was but another episode in the eternal struggle that periodically takes place between radical idealism and the concrete realities of everyday living, which many a time have ended in failure. Karl Marx did take time to remind us that, ‘Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past’ ( Marx, Karl -1852 – ‘The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte’)…..