By Tennyson Joseph
During the week of June 2 to June 8, over 400 Caribbean scholars and researchers on the Caribbean from the region and the diaspora assembled in Grande Anse, Grenada for the 34th Caribbean Studies Association (CSA) annual conference.
Quite apart from the wider discussions that took place on several aspects of Caribbean life, the most memorable aspect of this conference was the opportunity that it provided for at least three generations of Caribbean academics to reflect on the Grenada revolution and to assess its meaning and implications for our present.
CSA 2013 therefore, because it took place on Grenadian soil, provided an important backdrop for a discussion that has been 30 years overdue and for the breaking of a silence that had been weighing heavily on all discussions of Caribbean development options, political economy, and sociology, and that in many ways had been making it impossible for genuine forward movement beyond the tragedy of Grenada.
In the place of this silence, there has emerged a hodgepodge of deliberate and unplanned potpourri of misinformation, propaganda, emotive responses and, in the worst cases, uncensored ignorance masquerading as analyses of the Grenada revolutionary experience.
In short, only the negatives of that experience have entered the public consciousness. The outcome of all of this been the complete inability of any of the positives of the Grenada revolution to influence current thought and practice.
An example of this can be seen in current debates about the inability of Caribbean countries to break away from the British Privy Council and to commit themselves to the Caribbean Court of Justice. In none of these discussions has anyone pointed out that during the revolutionary period Grenada had removed itself from the Privy Council and had adopted the Caribbean Court of Appeal as its final court.
The past has a way, however, of reminding the present of its truths, despite the efforts at historical erasure. This is particularly true in moments of crisis such as the one currently being experienced, when we are forced to re-look into our past to “pick sense out of nonsense” and to find the things that have worked.
The main achievement of CSA 2013, however, was the meeting between several non-Grenadian intellectuals who had worked personally in the Grenada revolution, and the men identified as principally responsible for the events that led to its collapse. In some cases, these encounters were taking place after nearly 30 years of non-communication.
Whenever such encounters took place, the emotion was cathartic. Difficult as these meetings were, all delegates left Grenada with a sense that, finally, a period of genuine regional healing had begun.
(Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at UWI’s Cave Hill campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email firstname.lastname@example.org)