Before we address the legacy and footprints of the Revolution, there is a story to be told. The old admonition that, “after joy cometh sorrow” in many respects aptly describes the Revolution experience, sequentially.
Contextually, footprints relate to an actor’s character, value-systems, mindset and outlook. Their patterns and purposes are communicated through conduct, leaving lessons to be emulated and followed; or shunned and avoided. So that one’s footprints may have ongoing, influential value or impact upon others.
Legacy attaches to a significant achievement(s) or contribution(s) made by an actor and received by society. Such things will be remembered, but are not repeatable. Interestingly, they may be deliberately contrived as where one wishes to force oneself on a society, in a positive light, having otherwise shamed or failed that same society. Here the actor may be said to be in a desperate search of a good name.
By the time of its demise in 1983, the Revolution had established both a legacy and a set of footprints, the latter being typical of the exercise of state-power commonly associated with Marxist-Leninist ideology.
At the top of the story, one asserts that it is not open to the ‘remnants of the Revolution’ to claim March 13th, but to disown October 19th. Agreed? The Revolution had a start date and an end date. March 13th has a ‘gun and blood’ relationship to October 19th which academics cannot sanitise.
All societies require the supply of leadership. Culturally, Grenadians have settled leadership on the basis of charisma. The individual, so endowed and legitimised, typically organised a political party as a leadership vehicle. In the relevant period of our history, the NJM was that vanguard party and Maurice Bishop was the loved leader.
The Revolution answered the leadership question in that two-dimensional way, but it must be understood that it did not ‘make’ Maurice leader. He had been the preferred leader of the people since 1976. His was a cultural crown. On the other hand, the NJM, as party, was dabbling in a political ideology that was unknown to the Grenadian culture. Socialism was unknown in Grenadian society.
The period 1979-83 was as much about building a fledging Marxist-Leninist party, as it was about seeking to address the development needs of the people, in a planned way. Accordingly, the Revolution offered an answer to the development question facing the Grenadian people in the aftermath of Independence in 1974. It did so through specific programs and projects and via the strategic mobilisation of aid and technical assistance from friendly countries.
Alongside the development efforts, party comrades dedicated themselves to Marxist-Leninist schooling under Coard. The resulting indoctrination tailored an ‘intellectual cloak’ worn by NJM members as an emerging elitist group. It was not on offer to the masses at large.
Both locally and abroad, the revolutionary leaders spoke of, “building our own process” without openly assigning an ideological character to that process. One did not hear, for example, “we are building a Marxist-Leninist party”.
However, by the first quarter of 1983, the intellectual class within the NJM was so awash in book-knowledge that they lost sight of the simplicity of the Grenadian society. Their conduct demonstrated that the Revolution was owned by the party and not by the people.
The ‘ideological overcast’ which had been amassing since 1979 broke into a furious downpour of unspeakable violence and oppression in October, 1983. The politico-military actions on October 19th bastardised the Grenadian civilisation. Grenadians witnessed the criminal soul of power in service of self and party. The people did not matter. From the day Maurice was put under house arrest, the Revolution was guilty of betraying the Grenadian people.
So that is the story; abridged, but accurate.
In distinguishing between legacy and footprints, and as a practical matter, appreciate that one could be an innovator, for example, but be a worthless parent. So, doing certain good things do not entitle the doer to be followed or respected by others, though the contribution made may be recognised.
Applied to the Revolution, its legacy account contains the following; the International Airport, NIS, expansion in HRD, free secondary education, CPE, the heritage value attaching to a revolution and a failed, anti-cultural political experiment.
The footprints include; human rights violations, the taking of life and property, censorship, house arrest, detention, ‘heavy manners’, the ruthless gun standard of political control, elitism and the elevation of ideology over people.
Young Grenadians must be educated on the legacy values of the Revolution, but they must be taught not to follow its footprints. They must also be aware that sometimes people flaunt ‘legacy projects’ in the face, but primarily as a means of covering their corrupt footprints.
If we fail to educate them and to encourage their awareness, soon it will be crying time again.