By Hudson George
Maurice Bishop’s mother died just recently and there are media reports that only give the good news about the Bishop family and Bishop’s role as a politicians and revolutionaries in Grenadian politics. But if any bold, fearless Grenadian raises any questions about the bad side of Maurice Bishop’s leadership during the revolution, well he/she will expect to face all kinds of insults and accusations of being a Bishop hater that wants to give the Grenada revolution a bad name.
Hudson George has a BA in Social Science from York University, Toronto, Canada. He has been writing since his early teenage years and now contributes letters and articles to a number of Caribbean newspapers
Bishop’s role in politics is full of tragedy and confusion. Gairy championed Grenada politics for more than two decades before Bishop came on the political scene. And while the people opposed to the Gairy regime wanted a political change and a new leader who was less arrogant and dictatorial than Gairy, they did not get that type of leader when Bishop took power in a revolution that overthrew the Gairy regime. As a matter of fact, Bishop did worse than Gairy. He suspended the constitution and acquired absolute power. Unfortunately, there are some Bishop followers still vocal and they keep saying that in a revolution the leader cannot do any wrong because a revolutionary government is different from democracy.
However, it seems as though some journalists and other writers who are sympathetic to Bishop’s revolution seem to be using Gairy's dictatorial era as an excuse to cover up the mistakes of the Grenada revolution. They always begin with the introduction explaining to their readers that Bishop’s father, Rupert Bishop, was killed in 1974 during an anti-Gairy independence demonstration and there is a possibility that he was targeted by one of Gary’s military men and shot to death. And although the story is true about the Gairy military man who killed Bishop’s father in cold blood, that does not justified all the wrong things that took place during the revolution under Bishop’s leadership. Two wrongs cannot make anything right.
Personally, I believe the death of Rupert Bishop invoked an old hatred some elements in St George's have against rural Grenadians. And even though rural Grenadians played a major role in the overthrow of Eric Gairy's regime, the hatred was boiling inside some St George's folks still. The day Rupert Bishop was killed, Gairy brought rural militia to the city to confront the demonstrators. So any Grenadian who says that Rupert Bishop was killed by a stray bullet fired by demonstrator is also telling a big lie also.
Presently, the recent death of Bishop's mother brings back memories of the Grenada revolution and some news media reports claim that she died an unhappy woman because she lost her husband and her son in violent political conflicts, and she was not able to find the body of her son to give him a proper burial. But even though Maurice Bishop supporters sympathised with his mother for not being able to find his dead body and to bury him in a marked grave, they too are biased and always pretending and acting as though Bishop was the only person killed by the People’s Revolutionary Army who did not get a proper burial.
Maurice Bishop was the leader of the revolution and, in 1980, which was the second year of the revolution, the revolutionary comrades in St George parish took full control of the revolution and they were showing themselves big and bold that they were in control; and the revolution was a St George's clique thing. With that attitude displayed by the St George’s based clique within the revolution, some tough fearless rural fighters decided to fight back and exposed a split in the revolution. Bishop supported the St George clique because he was from that part of the country and most likely he must have favoured them more than the rural revolutionaries.
Bishop put all his trust in his St George's clique of revolutionaries and they had all the strategic positions to command and take full control of the revolution. With all the power in their hands, they were still nervous and frightened of the rural comrades, so they decided to purge the army and get rid of all the strong rural comrades who they thought were capable enough to challenge their authority.
In order for the St George’s clique to consolidate its domain on the revolution, Bishop gave extra powers to three trusted young comrades to purge the army and they did it very skillfully and ruthlessly. They took full control of Caliviny and Pearls Airport camp and they labeled all the soldiers who they did not trust as counter revolutionaries and marijuana smokers and traders. Fortunately for them, the propaganda worked very well in their favour, because marijuana is a plant that grows very well in the hillsides and mountains in Grenada.
In addition, there were lots of young men in the rural communities growing marijuana and when they heard that the revolution was against the large plantation growing of marijuana crops, they became anti-revolution and that is what Bishop and his men wanted. They were able to get the rural comrades to play right into their hands. As the power of the revolution became more centralised in St George's, other disgruntled elements within society became involved in the fight against the revolution and things began to fall apart rapidly.
In the village of Mt Rich, St Patrick, the Bishop revolution faced its biggest challenge. Three young men from the village, who were Muslim converts and former friends of the revolution, picked up arms and decided to fight back against the revolution after two of them were jailed by the revolution and labeled as counter revolutionaries. One of them died early in a shootout with soldiers from the People’s Revolutionary Army and he was buried according to Muslim rites. Therefore he got a decent funeral. However, the other two kept up the resistance for months against the revolution. They gave the army a tough time and, in the course of resistance, innocent civilians lost their lives, many people were arrested and thrown in prison, until one day the army surrounded a house in Mt Rich and shot the two men dead.
Three years later, the shooting of the insurgents from Mt Rich came back to haunt Bishop, based on the way he died. And my reason for saying that is because Bishop, as commander in chief of the revolution, should have given the bodies of the two dead men whom the army shot to their family, so that they could have gotten a decent burial. However, nobody knows what the People's Revolutionary Army did with the bodies of the two men. They did not get a proper burial.
So when the second split took place in the revolution and Bishop was arrested and detained by his own St George's clique of comrades whom he had trusted so much, days later he was executed, when some of his supporters tried free him; and tried to seize the military barracks in St George's. Therefore, it is evident that the comrade leader suffered the same fate as the insurgents from Mt Rich. The same way they did not get a decent burial, Bishop did not get a decent burial either.
Unfortunately, Bishop’s supporters still have not learned from what happened to him. They keep on saying that Bishop was good leader and there was nothing bad about him. And if you ask them why the Bishop family never tried to dialogue with the mothers of those insurgents from Mt Rich after the revolution crumbled, they will make excuses and say that Bishop did not have anything to do with what happened to the bodies of the two insurgent fighters. Yet, still they are advocating that Bishop’s remains must be returned to his family to get a decent funeral.
Basically, I write this article because I realise that, even though some people might be very educated, they still could be really stupid and ignorant, due to the political leaders who they chose to follow blindly. However, I believe that the same feelings and love Maurice Bishop’s mother had for him, is the same love the mothers of the insurgents from Mt Rich had for them. Unfortunately, it seems as though Grenadians love political biased killing.
Anyway, I know some people might be vexed with me for writing this piece, but others will appreciate it. Those of us who did not learn from the revolution waste a good opportunity to be civilised and recognise that all human lives represent one thing that makes us human beings, regardless of race, creed and class.
However, no one cannot deny that Bishop’s revolution gave Grenada an international airport and some Grenadians benefited from scholarships given by the revolution to go and study abroad in universities. The junior secondary schools built by the Eric Gairy regime were upgraded by the revolution into full fledged secondary schools during the revolution. Therefore, it is a fact that the revolution did some good in the field of education and presently the standard of literacy in Grenada is very high. On the other hand, it is very important to recognise the fact that the Gairy regime built the most schools in Grenada, even though most Grenadian journalists and other writers continue to portray Gairy as the dictator and Bishop as the revolutionary. But the truth is Gairy was Grenada first revolutionary leader who became a dictator and Bishop was the second revolutionary but he died a dictator.