The Story Continues

From a recent review by Christina Heatherton of David Roediger’s new book Class, Race, and Marxism, words worth remembering:

Roediger’s book reminds us that we need not only struggle against capitalism, we also need to exceed the limitations of its epistemology. A socialist sensibility, while ruthlessly critical of capitalism, is also patient, expansive, and forgiving. It understands that people make sense of the world with the categories available to them. It also recognizes that Marxist categories remain largely unavailable in the U.S. Our debates about Marxist theory and practice must retain the humility, patience, and the confidence to speak to people where they are at, not where we believe they should be. The point, again, as Roediger reminds us, is not just to be right. The point is to get free.

The complete review can be found at:

https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/3317-not-just-being-right-but-getting-free-reflections-on-class-race-and-marxism

 

“El problema con la recordación es que favorece a los muertos. Quizás ahora sea el momento de recordar y agradecer a los vivos.”   [“The problem with memorialization is that it favors the dead.  Perhaps it is time to remember and thank the living.”]                                                                                                                       Shalini Puri                                      http://temas.cult.cu/content/cuba-y-granada-amigos-para-siempre

Eduardo Galeano’s words remembered two days after his passing

“My great fear is that we are all suffering from amnesia. I wrote to recover the memory of the human rainbow, which is in danger of being mutilated.”

Pearls, Again

This March while I was in Grenada to launch my book, I went as usual to see the planes that still lie at the old airport at Pearls from the time of the Revolution.  A young boy walking by also began to contemplate them, circling around them, peering in, looking up at the wings.

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Puri 2015                                                                                

Author:  Why do you think these planes are here?

Boy:  They crash?  Maybe they run out of fuel and lose control.  They land, they bump up, and crash.

Author: And you think it happened how long ago?

Boy: Twenty years?

Author: Why do you think twenty years?

Boy: Depends on how long it is.  [Wind renders his words inaudible in the recording.]

Author: Oh, okay.  So what do you think, what are you wondering, when you’re standing there looking at those planes?

Boy: What happened to the passengers or the pilot?

Author: So you were wondering what happened to the passengers or the pilot?

Boy: Yes, miss.

Author: Okay.  So, actually, from what I understand, the planes have been here since 1983.  You know of anything that happened here in 1983?

Boy: No, ma’am.

Author: After the Grenada Revolution, the U.S. came in. This used to be the old airport at that time.  They were still building the new airport.   (See — that’s the old runway where the planes used to land.)  So luckily nobody crashed, but … these planes were left here after the Revolution…   One of them was going to be used, I think, to spray crops.  But I don’t think they ever used it, because by that time the Grenada Revolution fell.  Have you heard about the Grenada Revolution?

Boy: No, miss.

Author: Oh, hmm.

Boy: I might hear as I grow up.

Author: Good point.

…. Do you have any questions you would like to ask?

Boy: If you can say what happened to the people on the planes?

IMG_0804bPuri 2015

Remembering the Revolution: The View from Tivoli, St. Andrew, March 2015

On March 12, 2015 there was a commemoration of the Grenada Revolution in the village of Tivoli, St. Andrews, in the north of the island. Prompting the March 12 event was the sense that Tivoli’s role in and contribution to the Grenada Revolution still has not been adequately recognized.

Livingston Krumah Nelson, Manager of the Tivoli Drummers, argues that the movement to reclaim Grenada existed in Tivoli prior to and independently of the formation of the New Jewel Movement.   He attributes this to Tivoli’s strong cultural identity that manifested itself as a resistance to outside domination and pride in its indigenous heritage. Thus, Grenada’s first night school was set up in Tivoli, and was a precursor to the Revolution’s much-lauded Center for Popular Education. The first agricultural cooperative was set up in the Tivoli area in 1972. And various community activities such as the maroon bound the community together. Thus Nelson holds that when the leaders of MAP and JEWEL (which merged to form the New Jewel Movement) came to Tivoli, “they did not start a movement; they met a movement.”

Moreover, according to Nelson, although Grenadians from the north of the island were integral to various missions in support of the Revolution, belonged to the People’s Liberation Army, and led the March 13 seizure of police stations at the airport, Grenville, Birchgrove, Tivoli, Montrose, Union, Hermitage, and Sauteurs, when the Revolution came to power, not one Tivoli member who took over those police stations was given a rank higher than sergeant in the People’s Revolutionary Army. Nor did they receive a significant number of the scholarships to Cuba, East Germany, and the USSR.

For Tivoli’s strong local identity and autonomous political culture were only partly assimilable to the goals of the Revolution. As Nelson points out, Tivoli was a place with some of the strongest support of the Revolution and some of the strongest resistance to it.   The marginalization of its identity and culture is reflected not only in the limited representation people from Tivoli gained in the NJM government, but also in subsequent scholarly writing on the Grenada Revolution. The so-called Tivoli Group, Rastas, and Muslims fit uneasily with most academic accounts. Falling outside the agendas of both pro- and anti-Revolution scholarship, they remain on its fringes.[1]

The fractures occur along the fault-lines of town and country, and Marxism-Leninism versus more broadly Left and anti-establishment politics. The fractures surfaced as early as February 1980, when workers took over the River Antoine Estate in St. Patrick against the wishes of the NJM government. Many of the Revolution’s detainees came from St. Andrew, St. Patrick, and Mt. Rich. Indeed, several of those whom Nelson honors by name in the opening lines of his poem “March 13, 1979” – Caldwell Taylor, Kennedy Budhlall, Mucho (Evan Bhola), Nada (Kenneth Budhlall) — who were key to the success of March 13, were later expelled from the Party or jailed by it, sometimes on the basis of a single question about the direction the Revolution was taking. Derisive references to “the Tivoli Group” and to Rastas as, variously, “marijuana mongoose,” “political cowboys,” “Nescafé revolutionaries,” “CIA plants,” and “lumpen elements” were part of a pattern of discrediting them.

In turn, many in the Tivoli area rejected what they saw as armchair revolutionaries from town who were devoid of strong cultural loyalties and who were advancing a bookish or formulaic Marxist-Leninism which had, as Nelson put it, people “changing their names from John and Desmond to Vladimir.”  He insists that these so-called “‘revolutionaries’  … were just imperialist stooges.” The fighters from the countryside understood themselves by contrast as indigenous rebels with a political ideology that, to borrow a line from one of Nelson’s poems, was “locally made.”

Suspicion of Party leaders’ actions and motivations during the Revolution years continues to run deep today, still surfacing intra-Left tensions within the Revolution and its memory. The tensions have not been helped by the marginalization of people from St. Patrick and St. Andrew in recent dialogues around reconciliation, apologies to detainees, and commemorations of March 13.

Flyer Grenada

Tivoli Drummers:   https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tivoli-Drummers/747453725339566

Livingston Krumah Nelson, “March 13, 1979”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Wq7r6ypXgM

Livingston Krumah Nelson, “Locally Made”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAi5L_uM7HQ

This post was prompted by a comment by Livingston Krumah Nelson in the discussion period after my March 5 book launch at the Grenada National Museum, when he invited the audience to the March 12 event in Tivoli and explained the reasons for holding an event in Tivoli. He and I talked further on March 7; quotations attributed to him are drawn from that conversation.

[1]For significant exceptions, see Maurice Paterson, Rasta Prince Nna, and http://www.thegrenadarevolutiononline.com.

The Writing on the Wall                                                             March 2015

Below, a mischievous addition to the graffiti on the wall at Tempe that thanks the US and Caribbean heroes of freedom for intervening in October 1983.

IMG_0738cPuri 2015

October 11, 2014:  The debate over “Thanksgiving Day” Continues: 

Arley Gill argues that what Grenada needs is a National Heroes Day, not mimicry of an American Thanksgiving.

New Memoir

In June 2014, a posthumously published memoir appeared by Teddy Victor, founding member of the NJM who was later imprisoned by the Revolution but who actively campaigned to free the Grenada 17 from prison.  Deception on Conception: What Happened in Grenada 1962-1990 by Teddy Victor is available from Amazon.

New Headstone on Grave of PRA soldiers

Twenty-five years after the US invasion, on October 25, 2013, this small headstone was unveiled. It is the first memorial in Grenada to Grenadians killed in the US invasion.  In 1983, the US Military had mistaken the bodies of the 14 soldiers named on the headstone for Cubans and shipped them to Cuba. The Cubans had returned the bodies to Grenada, where they were buried in an unmarked grave.  The headstone honors them by name and alludes to unknown others who died during the invasion.

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Gravestone to PRA soldiers killed during Operation Urgent Fury