We are writing to challenge the content of the recent article that has appeared in your newspaper written by Godfrey Smith. It is ironic that as the fabricated case against Bernard Coard and the others is unravelling, with calls for a police investigation into allegations of perjury against the main witness on whose evidence they were convicted, the article appears to propagate the United States propaganda that there was no crisis in the Grenadian Revolution, and that its collapse was due to a power grab by Bernard Coard.
This response is based on factual evidence contained in minutes of meetings of the NJM Central Committee which were subsequently distributed by the US Government, not baseless supposition. “The Grenada Documents” are readily available online free of charge, although the Defendants were denied access to them during their show trial and subsequent appeal.
The US propaganda campaign alleged that there were serious ideological conflicts within the NJM leadership, a hardline leftists faction led by Coard that wanted communism immediately and a moderate faction led by Bishop that wanted a more gradual approach. In fact, all of the documentary evidence shows that there was ideological unity at the level of the leadership within the party with the way forward being set out in a document titled “The Line of March” which is available in full online. This document was unanimously agreed by the Central Committee and then by the party membership in September 1983. There is not a single document showing any dispute over this agreed approach during the remaining 13 months of the revolution.
The documentary evidence shows that by September 1983 there existed a deep crisis in the NJM party which threatened its disintegration. The minutes of the Central Committee meetings as early as April 1981 show that that there were difficulties which were never resolved, and these difficulties culminated in the crisis in 1983. What is clear from the minutes is that there was total agreement about the problems the revolution was facing, the difference of opinion was over the proposed solution, the joint leadership of the party. We are setting out below some of the comments from members of the Central Committee who subsequently opposed this solution:
“There exists as level of mistrust, resentment and frustration amongst party comrades”
– Fitzroy Bain
“The CC has not been able to rise to the challenge of the increasing complexity of the work of the revolution, this has led to a number of unrealistic decisions…”
– Maurice Bishop
“The number one problem is the quality of leadership given the process by Cde Bishop. He loses focus and spends too much time on details.”
– George Louison
“The weakness mentioned of the Cde Leader are correct”
– Unison Whiteman
Solutions to resolve the crisis were discussed in September 1983 the minutes of the meeting clearly show that there was no conspiracy to remove Bishop either as leader of the party, Government or Revolution. There was a proposal put openly to the central Committee and then the entire party membership to establish joint leadership of the party. There is no mention of a plot to remove Bishop in the US State Department book The Grenada Documents, indeed, such an accusation runs contrary to the contents of the documents which show an exhaustive open and frank discussion of the joint leadership proposal by the Central Committee and party members. However, this did not stop the US military psychological warfare battalion, which landed in Grenada on 25 October 1983, from constantly claiming that there was beyond doubt a conspiracy against Bishop. The only comment in the documentation that makes any reference to the removal of Bishop ironically came from George Louison “he feels that this model cannot solve the problem of Cde Maurice Bishop. The qualities missing have two dimensions… the level of effort of personal discipline… and of collective mannerizing from the CC to ensure that he builds these qualities; if he fails then it may be necessary to remove the comrade in the future.”
A vote was taken on the issue of the joint leadership with 10 in favour, 1 against “Louison” and 2 abstentions (Bishop and Whiteman). It should be noted that Bernard Coard was not present at the meeting, having resigned from the Central Committee in 1982. The Central Committee needed to put the proposal to him before going to the wider membership, but Bishop was adamant that this meeting should be held in his absence. Although he agreed with the analysis of the poor state of the work and the danger of the disintegration of the party, his inclination was not to return to the Central Committee though he would seek to perform any task given to him.
The documentary evidence clearly shows that far from a pre-planned conspiracy led by Bernard Coard; he was actually reluctant to accept any position in the Central Committee let alone become its joint leader. Far from seeking to impose a decision on the party membership by subterfuge, the members of the Central Committee who were subsequently tried for conspiracy were anxious to involve the party membership in full and insisted that they be presented with the full minutes of the Central Committee so that they could make an informed decision on the issues. The party membership discussed the issues of joint leadership on 25 September and after a long discussion voted in favour of the proposal, with all of the Central Committee members (including Bishop and Whiteman) voting in favour. The detailed debate is set out in the minutes and there is nothing in them to show any animosity to Bishop or any desire to remove him.
While in hindsight it is legitimate to question whether the joint leadership proposal would have resolved the crisis that threatened the continuation of the revolution, it is beyond doubt that the documentary evidence shows that there was no ideological split within the NJM and that there was a severe crisis that threatened the existence of the revolution to which the joint leadership proposal was put forward as a solution which was democratically decided on by the entire membership of the party. There was no grab for power by Bernard Coard who was clearly reluctant to return to the Central Committee. If there was a grab for power, it is arguable that it came from Maurice Bishop who, having voted for the proposition, subsequently was pressured by others into changing his mind, thus ignoring the democratic decision of the party of which he was leader.
Committee for Human Rights in Grenada (CHRG), UK
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