The Burning Spear 1984
Source: The Burning Spear. Vol. 10, no. 12, March 1984;
Transcribed: for marxists.org by David Adams.
OAKLAND, Ca. - For 400 years African people have been fighting the continuing onslaught of European-made capitalism. We have been forcibly shipped to North and South American and the Caribbean, and we have been imprisoned and hijacked on our own land in Africa. In Grenada, the British slave-owners in the 18th century would put rebellious Africans in iron cages or hang them high from trees to terrorize of the Africans working the plantations. Since the second imperialist war, Britain has used troops to put down African uprisings in Belize, Guyana, Bahamas, Jamaica, Bermuda, and Antigua; U.S. military bases have been established in Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Cuba, and Honduras. Clearly, the rule of capitalism has always meant war against African people. When the U.S. military threw an invasion force of 6,000 or more against the Grenadian army of less than 1,000 to re-establish imperialist control, the Reagan administration sent in a commission to determine how to re-establish exploitation by the "private sector" (a yankee code word for capitalism). Their report describes the early slave trade as nothing but a boon to capitalism: "The private sector merged early in Grenada's history when trading ships from Europe brought articles for sale (!) or to barter with the islanders in return for products to be taken back to Europe."
Today, as always, the fight of African people all over the world is to throw off the assault of European/U.S. capitalism against our people, and assault and a resistance which has been one continuous process that gave birth to world capitalism itself. This is why we say that African people are one people. Are we to accept the verdict of imperialism and allow the borders drawn by colonialism to isolate our people in little pickets here and there, unable to build an integrated economic structure, unable to established structures of security and self-defense? The island of Grenada has 110,000 Africans who put out fierce resistance to the U.S. invasion of October 25. But the African population of the Caribbean region is in the millions, in the Americas is in the tens of millions, and in the world is hundreds of millions. The immediate task of the African working class in the wake of the Grenada invasion is to build our own links, our own international, our own road to socialism. This is the mission of the African Socialist International.
While the imperialists struggle to divide and isolate the African working class, they put forward billions in stolen resources to forge links between the African sell-outs and fools, petty bourgeois politicians whose greatest aspiration is to be like the devils who have been murdering our people for four centuries. Thus Eugenia Charles straightens her hair and has dinner with the Reagans, declares that she will need more aid for Dominica to buy arms and Cadillacs, to put down the "communist threat." The U.S. arms will go to repress the people of Dominica and the Cadillac will go to Eugenia. They will go to enrich the puppet Tom Adams in Barbados and to repress the people. They will go to enrich the reactionary Prime Minister of Jamaica, Edward Seaga and to murder African freedom fighters such as dub poet Michael Smith, who indicated an interest to tour the U.S. with the APSP.
Just as the defeat of the democratic Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954 showed the Cuban revolutionaries the path that must be taken for liberation, just as the overthrow of the Allende government in Chile in 1973 showed the Nicaraguans what had to be done to defeat imperialism, so the defeat of the Grenadian revolution gives new impetus and urgency to the task of uniting the forces of the African working class and peasantry worldwide. While the North American left is full of arrogant criticisms of the Grenadians for what they should have done, while the comfortable arm-chair revolutionaries have volumes of advice, the only rectification, the only adequate response to the outrage of the U.S. invasion, will be made by the African workers ourselves.
This so-called left has limited its response to the invasion to a request for the U.S. to cease and desist from the blatant expressions of its policy, such as the demand that U.S. troops be withdrawn. But mild condemnations and rebukes do not bother the U.S. government, which in fact expected to get a vote of condemnation from the U.N. for the invasion. These are the people who murder 10 percent of the Vietnamese people, two million people, and still complain that they only suffered bad press.
Because of the lack of a program that goes beyond support for the policies of the liberal bourgeoisie, the North American left finds itself without an issue, without the ability to build a campaign in solidarity with Grenada simply because the bulk of U.S. troops have been withdrawn and a neo-colonialist black dictatorship has been imposed. By failing to side with African workers, by campaigning for neo-colonialist "progress" in black communities in the U.S. and the Caribbean, this left cannot become revolutionary. This is why not one sector of the North American left has raised the obvious and critical demand which applies in Grenada, the demand of all African internationalists: that the U.S. military must free Hudson Austin, Bernard Coard, and other political prisoners of war associated with the New Jewel Movement (NJM). They must be freed because they are the leaders of the Grenadian revolution, because whatever errors they made were errors made why struggling on the forward side, the liberation side, of history.
Coard himself has indicated that he intends to sue the U.S. military for illegal kidnapping, false detention, and torturing of himself and other NJM prisoners. Austin and Coard were the leaders of Grenada at the time the U.S. invaded. All accounts of the struggles within the NJM indicate that the organization was suffering from the constant assault they faced from imperialism, an assault that began with the March 1979 revolution that overthrew the puppet Eric Gairy dictatorship; this assault took the form of economic embargo, political and military threats, and infiltration by hundreds of CIA agents. The ability of these agents to undermine the progress of the movement at all levels put tremendous pressure on the NJM and demanded the most sophisticated development of the organization. These agents also were ready for the invasion, as one U.S. soldier bragged later: "We really have to thank the CIA, because their work was fundamental. They took us to the houses of the communists. They knew where the arms and ammunition were kept. It was really impressive. There were hundreds of agents on the island. They were our guides." (Reference: Ramon Jimeno, interviews in Mexican weekly Proceso)
One of the structures through which the CIA operated in free Grenada was the opportunist North American working class movement, its trade union bureaucracy, the AFL-CIO. This organization maintains a center for overseas operations, the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) which is a well-known CIA front, which maintained ties with the most backward unions during Bishop's years, and which has now been charged by the Reagan administration with the task of "restructuring" the Grenadian labor movement.
Under such pressure, and lacking the political unity and organizational maturity necessary to maintain a clear path, the NJM suffered a fate quite similar to the U.S.-based Black Panther Party when it was under assault. But while the bourgeois press and the North American left smugly sum up the Panthers as best by self-destructive internecine warfare, we know they were defeated by a protracted military assault by the U.S. State, and their international contradictions only exploded because they were being defeated by this assault. In Grenada, clearly Maurice Bishop was a well-loved leader of the people and represented the commitment of the revolution to mobilize the masses of people to solve any problem. And clearly his death disoriented, demoralized, and undermined the ability of the Grenadian people to fight the subsequent invasion. Bishop was also criticized for failure to provide thorough leadership for many of the problems that the economy and the mass organizations were facing.
It is not necessary to assign blame for the events that followed, to piece together all of the specifics of the attempts by the Central Committee to put some discipline on Bishop, the mass demonstration which freed Bishop from house arrest and moved to disarm the soldiers at Fort Rupert, the shootings there and the apparent execution of Bishop, Foreign Minister Unison Whiteman, Education Minister Jaqueline Creft, and Union leader Vincent Noel. Many have speculated that the CIA was behind the deaths of these popular leaders, and indeed the U.S. could hardly have asked for a better script to discredit the revolution and lay the basis for the vicious imperialist invasion.
The question is not CIA involvement, which we know existed, but how the revolutionary forces can arm ourselves and the masses to defeat such involvement. To say the CIA did it and leave it at that only demoralizes the people, only says if the U.S. takes a mind to, they will do you in. Such is not the case, as the heroic example of Cuba has shown for 25 years. We have to emphasize, however, as our Party in the November issue of The Burning Spear:
"The participation of the masses allows the people themselves - the farmers and workers, the women and youth - to line up on the various sides of every question, to take up the struggles within their mass organizations and to impact upon the decisions and conduct of the leadership. It is without such mass participation around the serious questions confronting the revolution, that leaders are capable of taking it upon themselves to deal in an absolute, subjective, and antagonistic manner in the resolution of contradictions which have implications for the revolution and the entire people.We believe a small party can lead a revolutionary seizure of power, but it will be much more difficult for a small party, particularly under repressive circumstances where open contact with the masses is difficult and the internal development of the party has been so restricted by social conditions that the party has not had an opportunity to achieve unity through struggle around all the important questions and to forge itself into a fighting, principled organization through the test of serious practice under the most diverse and difficult circumstances."
Because of these weaknesses, the lack of mobilization of the masses, and the underdevelopment of the Party, the NJM made serious errors, fatal errors, and those who are left, those who survived, must take responsibility for these errors. But this is still a Grenadian struggle, a Grenadian process. The U.S. has no place to intervene even within the hastily constructed alliance of regional puppet island governments which called for the invasion or signed the request for invasion from the Queen's man on the spot, Paul Scoon, which was signed after the U.S. was on the island. As Fidel Castro pointed out at the funeral for the Cubans killed on Grenada, there is no legal justification for such an intervention, just brute force; otherwise, would not another country be justified in invading the U.S. after Martin Luther King or John Kennedy was assassinated, to restore order and justice?
Since Africans in Grenada must be allowed to develop their own struggle, we must demand freedom for Coard and Austin. We must understand why the U.S. military displayed these brothers blindfolded, stripped to the waist, arms bound behind their backs, all in violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention of War. Not only were they paraded thus, but the U.S. propaganda machine made posters of Coard and Austin in such a pose and had them plastered all over the island. Clearly the intent was to ridicule, to demoralize, to intimidate the revolution. We know that imperialism always takes out African leaders in the most public, most bloody, way possible - such as the public killings of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X or the bloody execution of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark - in order to terrorize our people and give an example to the world.
We remember that Bernard Coard came to the U.S., like thousands of other Grenadians forced by economic pressures and the lack of education and employment opportunities on the island, where the average national income is $500. He came to Boston in 1963 and was active in the Black Power Movement in that city as well as working for international solidarity campaigns. Hudson Austin took up the critical responsibility of building up the people's army, of defending this island of 110,000 people against the combined might of the U.S. Navy and Army, of mobilizing the people into popular militias which in the end would hold the power of the State in the hands of the masses. Austin and Coard are prisoners of imperialism and we must take any steps that are necessary to free them. This is the solidarity of the African Socialist International and the African People's Socialist Party.
Many have ridiculed the U.S. for showing its great military prowess on a tiny island, one who strategic significance cannot possibly be great. But we should not underestimate the importance of the Grenada action in the present period of struggle between U.S. imperialism and the rising peoples of the world. As many have pointed out, Grenada is 5 times larger than Iwo Jima and that island played a pivotal role in the outcome of World War II. Much was stake in Grenada, not the least of which was the U.S. needing to prove its willingness to fight, to not only force down uprisings by hungry and impoverished peoples, but to actually turn back the clock by smashing a popular revolution. Such a move was intended to send a clear message to Cuba, to Nicaragua, to the fighting peoples of El Salvador and Guatemala, and to the rest of the world. Reagan was determined to break from the Viet Nam syndrome, from the reluctance by many in the U.S., even in the ruling class, to get involved in another shooting war against a national liberation struggle. The U.S. was itching to break the paper tiger image - the widespread understanding that the U.S. could be beaten.
In its struggle to show the flag, the U.S. claims it sent in first 2,000 troops, twice the size of the Grenadian army; by the end, after meeting stiff resistance, the U.S. had to put in at least 6,000 troops with 14,000 in the immediate vicinity as back up, or a military force that was a fifth the size of the entire population of Grenada. To have committed a similar force to the Viet Nam war, the U.S. would have had to sent in 5 million troops. And far from demonstrating the fighting power of the U.S. military, the Americans demonstrated their weakness when they were unable to dislodge the resistance in many districts, when the Cuban construction workers successfully defended themselves, when more and more troops had to be brought in. And as always, the U.S. forces fought in the most cowardly, imperialist way, relying on overwhelming firepower and expending tons of munitions instead of small unit engagements. The U.S. forces bombarded hills and valleys with rocket, bomb, and mortar attacks that saturated each section before they advanced on it, thus killing many innocent civilians. At the airport at Point Salines, the U.S. forces captured some unarmed Cuban construction workers and then forced them to walk ahead of them as a shield while they advanced on the Cuban barracks. This also is a violation of the Geneva Convention and the most backward kind of fascist military behavior.
Now that the U.S. has taken Grenada, how are they going to make it the showcase it must be for imperialism? Having initial problems finding someone capable of playing the despicable role of puppet political movement, they have not been able to turn over power to any significant sector of the population. A few businessmen, a few lawyers with ties to the U.S., have been put in place, but these few count on the U.S. military might and millions of dollars to prop them up. The U.S. actually has had the nerve to promote the black clown, "Sir" Paul Scoon, the representative of the Queen of England, who was supposed to speak at garden clubs and preside over ribbon cutting ceremonies, to the rile of dictator, the "legitimate" government authority who would call together a ruling board. Press statements are issued under Scoon's name, but it is clear that it is a U.S. show all the way. Even to get in to see Scoon, you have to get a pass from the U.S. State Department and be checked by U.S. military guards. Clearly, Grenada is a U.S. military hostage under a reactionary dictatorship, but the trappings og neo-colonialism, of U.S. rule through black puppets, are being created for world consumption.
Under the neo-colonial U.S. regime, all public meetings have been banned, the popular newspaper Free West Indian has been closed and the lick-spittle paper Grenadian Voice has resumed publication, which a typesetting machine provided by the U.S. and with copy flown to Barbados by U.S. military airplanes to be printed and returned. This paper, of course, opened its first issue with praise for the U.S. "rescue mission." The U.S. also paid for a guided tour of the island by 22 journalists from around the world willing to act as mouthpieces for the CIA. Under this regime, the U.S. military and its puppet "police" forces from nearby islands make arbitrary arrests with no reference to a body of law. NJM lawyer Kendrick Radix was arrested for "sowing discontent and ill will in public spaces." Coard and Austin are held incommunicado without charge, and when former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, hired as an attorney by the Coard family, went to Grenada, he was not allowed to see his client. The puppet Scoon government has expelled the workers and diplomatic staff of Cuba, the Eastern European countries, North Korea, and Libya as well as kicking out progressive North Americans who had come to help with the revolution.
The murder of the Grenadian revolution has not satiated the U.S. war State, however, and further military aggressions are being built in the region. The U.S. has been carrying out further war games around the island of Puerto Rico, as well as beefing up the U.S. Marine base in Guantanamo, in Cuba, thus threatening to invade Cuba. They have increased U.S. troop strength in Costa Rica and Honduras, building invasion highways and camps against Nicaragua. They have called together a meeting of the Central American Defense Council to discuss the invasion of Nicaragua. They have increased the number of "advisors" involved with the counter-revolutionary military forces of El Salvador. Such advisors are welcomed by the Salvadorean government, though in the past they have been able to advise themselves into a series of defeats against people's war, in Nicaragua, in Angola, in Viet Nam. These advisors have no advice at all to give on how to fight a people's war because they cannot do so, they cannot mobilize the peoples for their own oppression. They can only bring in more and heavier military hardware, hoping to turn back history with the terror of the huge U.S. bombardments.
But the real lessons of Grenada are not the overwhelming might of the U.S. war machine. Even with the defeat of tiny Grenada, the U.S. has shown that it can be fought, it can be taken on. The key factor in such a war is not the armaments on each side, although these can make a big difference in the damage inflicted. The key factor is the willingness of a people to fight. The U.S. military as always acted without personal motivation or honor, relying only on firepower. The Grenadians were suffering mainly from the political demoralization and loss of bearings caused by the fight that had broken out in the New Jewel Movement. This was the factor that made the U.S. invasion possible with its minimum of losses in American lives. Nevertheless, the people's militia and the people's army put up a creditable battle and their resistance temporarily paralyzed the invaders.
In addition, the 700 Cuban construction workers acted as a model of internationalism and revolutionary morality. For all the U.S. slander about Cuban military forces and Cuban control, the truth has come out that they were indeed construction workers in solidarity with the major airport project on the island. Their instructions were not to attack any forces but to defend themselves if attacked. Their offensive potential was also undermined by the NJM killings, since the Cuban leadership knew a strong protracted resistance to the invasion would not be possible with Bishop recently killed. In fact, the construction workers followed scrupulously the orders not to fire first, and even watch the U.S. airplanes land at the airport and the forces regroup. This was the U.S. military's weakest moment. If the Cubans had chosen to fire then, hundreds of Americans would have been killed.
In a bigger context, the real lessons of Grenada concern the course of the international African revolution, and the international struggle against imperialism. Grenada demonstrates again the truth of the pronouncements of Garvey and Nkrumah that African people all over the world can only win liberation when fighting together. The Continent of Africa has been carved up according to arbitrary lines drawn by the imperialists; African people have been flung across the Caribbean islands and throughout the Americas. How could Grenada stand as a single country, with a population smaller than black Oakland? African people come from the same historical process, a process that began with thousands of years of development on the Continent followed by enslavement to provide the initial wealth of the capitalist system and continuing through today's liberation struggles. Our very location in the heart of imperialism, our political economic location in the core of the profit-making colony of imperialism, makes our revolution most threatening and most under attack.
This is why the African revolution must be able to sum up the battle of Grenada, must move ahead on all fronts. Clearly African people in the U.S. have the material stakes and the consciousness of the need for this revolution and this is in contrast to the vast majority of the North American (white) population, which is still betting on its personal enrichment with the survival of imperialism. Reagan has skillfully mobilized the reactionary patriotism of the North American people and war fever is sweeping the U.S. Even those not heartened by the invasion have at least given their passive support. The response to the invasion was minimal in the U.S., amounting to some thousands participating in controlled demonstrations to voice disapproval. But compare that mobilization to the massive response when the U.S. invaded Cambodia in 1970, a much more limited military incursion, not one which overthrew a sovereign government. Clearly the U.S. population has gone backward since that years. Why?
Clearly, the answer can be found in the defeat of the Black Power Movement by the U.S. military forces operating under the Counter-Intelligence Program in the 60's and 70's, a defeat which was consolidated by the intervention of the North American left, which added ideological assaults to the military assaults of the State. The North American left, behind the protection of the guns of the U.S. military, declared that black people do not have a right to fight for our own liberation; we were reduced to being a part of the strategy for their own coming to power; we were beaten down with a club marked "the national question." But without the African Revolution, without the leading working class force in the U.S., the force which moves every immediate struggle to an exposure and denunciation of the entire imperialist system, the force which has always shown the way, the U.S. society has again become reactionary and passive. This is why there was never effective Grenada solidarity work during the four years of the revolution, since African workers and internationalists were effectively kept out of the work. Essentially there were two solidarity committees working in the U.S., one dominated by the Socialist Workers Party and one dominated by the Communist Party. Neither committee did work to mobilize militant solidarity with Grenada, in fact one could not even be found except when a visiting dignitary was coming. But they primarily used the Grenada work, like they use the support work for Cuba, for Nicaragua, etc., for narrow competition between these two old left rivals.
What of the new left? During the 1960's, this was the sector that took courage and direction from the struggle of African people, which learned to fight in the street, to confront imperialism, and which laughed at the old left for spending the decade petitioning, praying, and sending letters to congressmen. Now the new left has joined their elders in opportunism, and their greatest aspiration is to get some more letters sent to the imperialist State, to "broaden" the movement through the appeals to the most liberal and middle class sectors, to get a Democratic Party elected.
The fact is, right after the Grenadian invasion, the spontaneous anger of the people and the leadership of black workers promised a sharper response. Indeed, the call was first made by the APSP for a demonstration early in the morning and the police responded with the most organized repression. When African workers and our supporters went down to City Hall in Oakland, police swarmed over the building and began ticketing people on petty violations such as jaywalking and parking. But the biggest contingent of African workers was prevented from coming to City Hall by police who surrounded Uhuru Park and prevented people from coming out to the demonstration. This is the fear and respect that the State shows for the power of black workers. Later in the day, a large demonstration was held in Berkeley, with thousands of mostly North American youths in the street, and the militancy was clear as U.S. flags and other items were burned and the crowd surged around the downtown district. This time, however, the police were nowhere to be seen and the State strategy was to let the North American march leadership retain control and wind it down.
The Berkeley demonstration and the Oakland demonstration earlier that morning, however, were the sharpest response and the ones attempting to set the terms of struggle against U.S. imperialism. What happened instead? The old left-new left alliance took control of the demonstrations, the crowd-control communists who set themselves up as arbiters of who should be allowed to speak and how to keep the demonstrations "responsible." With that, any possibility of real struggle was wiped out at least until the black working class becomes much stronger and is able to lead all of its own struggles. Such a struggle will set the terms not only in the U.S. but around the world.
If the reaction in the U.S. was weak, it was worse in Europe. Having lost their focus on direct solidarity, on anti-imperialism, the European left could only deal with Grenada as a lesson in their own self-interest struggle. The British left complained that if Margaret Thatcher, who should be the imperialism boss in charge of Grenada, could not prevent Reagan from invading Grenada, how could she stop him from launching British-based nuclear missiles? Instead of building direct support for Grenada, they chided their government for not being a more effective imperialist - perhaps because Thatcher herself should have launched the invasion. Thus while the British left was satisfied to be the spokesman of the liberal bourgeoisie, the Labour Party, the African workers in Britain were mobilizing direct solidarity with the New Jewel Movement.
The struggle in Grenada over the next years will be a struggle against neo-colonialism, the kind of imperialist control which combines brute military repression with the emplacement of puppet bosses. In this respect, too, they face the same conditions as Africans in the U.S. Indeed, just 8 days after the invasion, when the lackey Paul Scoon was being put in power in Grenada, the blitzkrieg chief Reagan was signing the law declaring Martin Luther King's birthday a holiday. While this barefaced manipulation was obviously a cynical attempt to win black loyalty to U.S. imperialism right at the moment that the most genocidal crime was being committed right next door against black people, still Coretta Scott King was teary-eyed, Andy Young declared it a great day for all Americans, and Jesse Jackson called Reagan the president of "all the people." What a shameful prostration, what a betrayal of moral standards, for these Negroes to cheer a U.S. president at the moment he is murdering black freedom fighters. Do we need any further proof of the treachery of neo-colonialism?
Clearly in these conditions, with the passive support of the North American population, with the opportunism of the white left which sees its greatest aspiration as doing the bidding of the liberal bourgeoisie, and with the treachery of the black primitive petty bourgeoisie, the historical mission and leadership of the black working class is critical. We know that the rebuilding of our liberation struggle is critical for the people of Grenada, for all African people, for all peoples fighting against imperialism. For us, Grenada is not just a political football of the right or left, not just something to get a leg up on. For us, the accomplishments of the New Jewel Movement in providing the first schools and medical clinics for thousands of African people, in establishing the first sewer system which is critical for public health, in improving public transportation, in setting up people's democracy through neighborhood councils, women's councils, and worker's councils, are accomplishments for our people. The hundreds of years of genocidal conditions, of forced labor, of incredible degradation were being turned around on Grenada, and we could see it in the concrete world and feel it inside ourselves.
The legacy of Maurice Bishop, the African internationalist example of the Grenadian revolution, the internationalism of the Cuban revolution, the determination of African workers in the U.S., will stay with us in the years to come. We know that the Cuban people, the Nicaraguan people, are prepared to make a graveyard for the U.S. marines. We know that the African working class is forging its own ideology, its own organizations, its own international links, and its own future so that African people on the Continent and around the world will once again be free and independent.
FREE BERNARD COARD & HUDSON AUSTIN!
BUILD THE AFRICAN SOCIALIST INTERNATIONAL!