Were the Vincentian Marxists ever close to revolution?

February 7, 1979, St Vincent:   Ralph Gonsalves says: “St Vincent’s economic base is in ruins. The economy is poised at the precipice of bankruptcy.” He said a way out of the political and economic crisis is contained in the YULIMO program “based on socialist orientation amidst a patriotic call for democratic and anti-Imperialist unity”.

February 1979, Cuba:   Cuba sends a shipment of arms and equipment to Grenada in advance of the Grenadian revolution, timed to arrive at the initial seizure of power in Grenada by Maurice Bishop. The ship lingered in the Caribbean to assess the success of the revolution before docking.  (Maurice Bishop had previously received training by the Cubans and was supported and was to a great degree controlled by them).

The Cubans well known for their export of communist revolution.  They swamped Grenada with Doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, builders of which all had military training and many were military advisor’s and specialist armed services, some disguised.  Many entered the country prior to March 13th 1979, using false Venezuelan passports.  Without the Cuban help and assistance there could not have been a Grenadian revolution.  Huge amounts of arms and ammunitions arrived from Cuba, Russia and several other countries. In fact more than could ever be used for the Grenadian revolution, enough to arm several revolutions on several Caribbean islands. Cuba was backing, funding, training, arming and assisting revolutionary insurgency on several fronts in Central, South and Latin America.  They were also fighting revolutionary wars in cohorts with the Soviet Union (Russia) in several African countries, they needed an airport hub in the Eastern Caribbean as a drop off and launch refueling site  for their aircraft, which were flying regularly from Cuba to Africa.  Of course Cuba was a front for the Soviet Union, it was really Russian communist expansionism that was feeding Cuba’s revolutionary  efforts on several continents. Because everything has a price, when established communist  states gave money or kind to revolutionaries and their projects, they expected to control the proceedings. Maurice Bishop was controlled by the Cubans and Russians, who trained the Grenadian military, police, prison officers and secret service.  They also held classes in Marxism which all party members and Grenadian government workers were required to take.  Some of the upper people in government and military were sent to Cuba or Russia for training and indoctrination.   Some believed the Soviet control via Cuba extended to Saint Vincent.

March 13, 1979, Grenada: A revolutionary coup takes place in Grenada, led by Maurice Bishop. ‘Operation Apple’, the code name for the coup, marked the official beginning of a new government, based on years of preparation. The coup was spearheaded by Cuban personnel who had arrived in Grenada days before as “tourists,” using forged Venezuelan passports. Also the island was already swamped with Cuban military posing as teachers, medical staff and contractors. Cuban aid and Cuban volunteers were indispensable in the coup. Aid was also given by the Soviet Union, socialist (communist) countries in Eastern Europe, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Libya and Syria. Help and support was given by Caribbean communists, such as Ralph Gonsalves of Saint Vincent. Grenada was also becoming a socialist pole of attraction for socialist African Americans.

March 1979, Grenada: Maurice Bishop invited the Vincentian Marxist, Ralph Gonsalves on the second Saturday of the revolution to help with political work. Gonsalves joined Bishop, riding in his car with him to rallies and speeches. Gonsalves had a hand in writing Bishops political speeches.

March 13th 1979, Grenada: A speech by Maurice Bishop to the New JEWEL Party members: “It is clear that our objective as Marxist-Leninists must in the first instance be to construct socialism as rapidly, but scientifically as possible From the start too, comrades, we had an alliance with sections of the upper petty bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie this was done deliberately so that imperialism won’t get too excited and would say they have some nice fellow’s in the thing; everything alright That was the mistake, for example, the comrades in Gambia made a few months ago. Remember the Gambia coup d’etat a few months ago? What was the first thing those comrades did? They say, If we are Marxist-Leninists and we have just had a Marxist Leninist revolution and we go wipe out the bourgeoisie.” (this was extracted from documents found by the U.S. forces when they invaded Grenada in 1983)

March 15th 1979, Grenada: Based on years of extreme left socialist preparation Bishop became Prime Minister of Grenada, at 34 years of age. His oratorical dynamism and facility with words, phrases and hugging up people and their children were vital skills for the mobilization of a nation. This marked the official beginning of a new style  of communist government.

March 15th  1979, Grenada: Several advisors to Maurice Bishop arrived in Grenada . They were Allan Alexander and Frank Solomon both of Trinidad & Tobago, Miles Fitzpatrick of Guyana, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of St.Vincent and Robert “Bobby” Clarke of Barbados. They met with Maurice Bishop, Kenrick Radix and Unison Whiteman.

March 20, 1979, Antigua: At a meeting held in Antigua and Barbuda, leaders of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines decided to examine the feasibility of establishing a regional defense force empowered to intervene in future rebellions “by armed and trained communist revolutionaries” against any of the governments concerned. Despite the obvious threat the region established diplomatic relations with the de facto People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) in Grenada. Regional leaders were swayed by Bishop’s assurances that free and fair elections would be held (a promise never kept).

April 6, 1979, St Vincent: Dr Ralph Gonsalves said in Saint Vincent, “the Popular Revolution in Grenada could be explained by the rise in the people’s consciousness. The effect of the Revolution was that in one stroke it had greatly raised the consciousness of the masses in the whole Caribbean.”

April 13, 1979, St Vincent: The eruption of Mount Soufrière. An explosive eruption occurred accompanied by effusive activity. The eruption was preceded by increased numbers of earthquakes, an increase in the temperature of the crater lake and a slight inflation of the volcano flanks. The eruption started on April 3 with dome building continuing up to 1983. There were no fatalities, but there was loss of crops and livestock. The final cost of eruption to the economy was estimated at EC$13,784,797. Over 14,000 people were evacuated from areas located north of Union Village (east) and Belleisle Hill (west); explosions continued for two weeks followed by six months of non-explosive emission of lava. The government of St Vincent and the Grenadines sought and obtained US$541,423 from the United Nations Development Programme for this project which facilitated the expansion and improvement of the volcano monitoring program at the Soufrière volcano.

Ralph Gonsalves, a Vincentian politician and Marxist activist, a lecturer in government and sociology at UWI (Barbados 1976 – December1979), travels in March 1979 to Grenada, to support the revolution and help Maurice Bishop with his revolutionary work.

July 1979, St Vincent: Some of St Vincent’s political parties join forces: The PDM and YOULIMO unite. Parnel Campbell, Oscar Allen, Renwick Rose, Ralph Gonsalves.

August 1979, St Vincent: United Peoples Movement (UPM) launched. The party executives: Dr Ralph E. Gonsalves, Dr. Kenneth John, Carlyle Dougan, Renwick Rose and Oscar Allen.

A statement by Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves said, “The UPM is an independent party. A party which is concerned about St Vincent. The party’s affairs will be conducted with flexibility and good sense, reflecting those interests which we consider national.”

August 3, 1979, St Vincent: Ralph Gonsalves, in a Vincentian newspaper question and answer article, denies that he or YULIMO are communist. That he does not wish to make St Vincent a communist state.

August 17, 1979, St Vincent: A letter printed on page 5 of the Vincentian newspaper from ‘A concerned Vincentian’ “YOULIMO is lying about not being communist”.

The People’s Political Party (PPP), with the development of a more conservative black middle class, began to lose support steadily, until it collapsed after a rout in the 1979 elections.

The St Vincent Labour Party (SVLP) led the island to independence, winning the first post-independence election in 1979.

September 2, 1979, St Vincent: Parnel Campbell returns from the UK for a two week visit. Believed to be in connection with his political activities, he is an active member of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM). The PDM recently formed an alliance with the parties YULIMO and ARWEE.

In 1979, London: Campbell successfully completed his law studies in the UK and was called to the Bar as a member of Grays Inn, in November 1978.

September 1979, St Vincent:  Parnel Campbell in an interview was asked for his socialist views. He was asked how he felt about communism: “The Vincentian man needed an inspiration of economic justice if he was to put forward the effort needed for the society to develop and make progress.”

During 1979, Grenada:   Cuban aid to Grenada was extensive in areas which affect the security of its government and the island’s strategic usefulness to Cuba. Cuba has advisers on the island offering military, technical, security, and propaganda assistance to the Bishop government. Many Grenadians have been sent to Cuba for training in these areas. Last year journalists observed Cuban officials directing and giving orders to Grenadian soldiers marching in ceremonies in St. George’s.

October 13th  1979, Grenada: The “Torchlight,” the only free press Newspaper in Grenada, was closed. Mass arrests followed of persons considered to be “counter-revolutionaries.” Cuba built a 75-kilowatt transmitter for Radio Free Granada. Grenada’s state-controlled press, enjoying a government enforced monopoly, enforcing news was to a strict “revolutionary” line. Indications are that the new transmitter will continue this emphasis while providing facilities for beaming Cuban and Soviet-supplied propaganda into the Caribbean and South America.

October 19, 1979, St. Vincent: The United Peoples Movement (UPM) [consisting of: PDM, YULIMO, ARWEE] held a march and rally. The main speakers were Renwick Rose, Ralph Gonsalves and Parnel Campbell.

October 27, 1979, St. Vincent: Independence (St Vincent and the Grenadines).

Flag of St Vincent and the Grenadines 27 Oct 1979 – Mar 1985 (flag changed in 1985 by omission of white stripes)

October 27, 1979, St. Vincent: Constitution: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines gained full independence and elected to stay within the British Commonwealth.

Milton Cato, elected prime minister, 27 October 1979 to 30 July 1984.

Sir Sydney Gun-Munro (27 October 1979–28 February 1985) appointed first Governor General of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

In 1979, St. Vincent: The United People’s Movement (UPM), a progressive, nationalist, and anti-colonialist group, which included among its leaders PR Campbell, Renwick Rose, Kenneth John, Oscar Allen, and Ralph Gonsalves, took a principled line of: “YES” to independence. The political forces which made up the UPM were prepared to go to London for “independence talks” with Premier Cato as part of a broad-based national movement; Cato rejected their requests to accompany him. James Mitchell and Ebenezer Joshua, rejected Cato’s repeated invitations for them to join him in the London at the “independence talks”. Mitchell and Joshua were, at the time opposition parliamentarians to Cato.

In 1979, St. Vincent:  General elections, the United Peoples Movement (UPM) led by Ralph Gonsalves, Renwick Rose and Parnell Campbell won 14.5% of votes in the country but under the system won no parliamentary seats. The UPM had performed dismally. Their own analysis told them that in spite of their hopes, they were too academic in their approach and for the most part naive. UPM, United People’s Movement, was the coming together of three main groups, namely DFM, which was a grouping of EFP, headed by Parnell Campbell and PDM, headed by Carlyle Dougan; ARWE, a group out of Diamonds Village, headed by Oscar Allen and YULIMO, a group ultimately as a result of the coming together of various predecessor groupings, from Rose Place. Shortly after the 1979 general elections, the DFM faction broke away. They lingered on for a short while and finally gave way by1984, making way for one of its members, Eddie Griffith to contest the Central Kingstown seat on an NDP ticket. The UPM struggled on under the leadership of Renwick Rose and Ralph Gonsalves, Gonsalves being the joint-absentee leader. The party became a virtual protégé of Maurice Bishop and the MJM in Grenada.

October 1979, St. Vincent: Independence of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines from the United Kingdom, the Saint Vincent Labour Party (SVLP), led by Prime Minister Milton Cato, garnered 11 out of 13 elected seats in the December 1979 election.

Sir Sydney Gun-Munro(27 October 1979–28 February 1985) appointed first Governor General of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

November 9, 1979, St. Vincent: Vincentian Newspaper, page 5: In a published letter from Cameron G. King.

[excerpt] “YULIMO/UPM they are anti-Christian people. They are upset that I have exposed their ideology for its anti-God stand. They follow Marx who was an atheist. Marx did not believe in God. Marxism-Leninism is a Godless creed. It is a Godless creed aimed at one party dictatorship, and requiring the denial of human rights to all those who have conflicting views. They are upset that I have alerted Christians to the grave danger of electing men whose creed is anti-Christ and anti-God. Let us not be fooled into thinking YULIMO and ARWELL are the only groups subscribing to Marxist disbelief in God. One of the leading lights in the PDM has plainly said time and time again that he does not believe in God. Now his son repeats the statement everywhere.”

December 1979, St. Vincent: A large yacht name ‘Sayonara Alpha’ anchored off Villa Beach, and had laid at anchor for several weeks. The police, following a tip-off, searched the vessel. They found it loaded with guns, ammunition and explosives. Four crew members were taken into custody, they were said to be three English, one German and a Caribbean man. A story at the time was that the boat was used as a transfer depot for the weapons. Also that a local group was involved in receiving the arms. There was much speculation if this was part of the Caribbean Marxist Conspiracy.

December 8, 1979, St. Vincent: The government had to quell an uprising on Union Island. The uprising called the “December Revolt” on Union Island by a group that wanted more power in the country’s new government. Rastafarians seized the airport, police station, and revenue office on Union Island in the Grenadines.

On notification of the uprising Milton Cato immediately declared a state of emergency and imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew throughout St Vincent and the Grenadines. Less than two weeks into the curfew, the government’s action was criticized by the Marxist led United People’s Movement (UPM) in an official release in which co-leader Renwick Rose (other co-leader Ralph Gonsalves), complained of police harassment of three members of the UPM over speculations of their involvement in the Union Island uprising. Rose also argued that there was no reason why the state of emergency could not be confined to a part of or the entire Grenadines since it was “creating such serious economic loss and personal inconvenience at that festive time of year.” In justification of his action, Prime Minister Cato stated that the government had conclusive evidence of a “link between the Union Island rebels and forces on the mainland, whose intentions were to execute a similar event in St Vincent.” According to Cato, the seizure of a yacht with a large quantity of ammunition, the attempted burning of the Public Works Building and the destruction of the PBX system housed in the same building were evidence of a plot by the mainland Marxist forces.

Fearing an uprising in Saint Vincent, Cato appealed to Barbados for help. Within hours of his appeal, Barbados sent a detachment of soldiers to St Vincent where they remained for the next six days before going on to Union Island. The decision by the Tom Adams Barbados Government to deploy Bajan troops on Vincy soil was strongly condemned by that country’s opposition socialist party the Democratic Labour Party (DLP). Leader of the DLP and opposition leader Errol Barrow criticized the action of Prime Minister Adams on the basis that the Union Island uprising was an internal affair that ought to be handled only by Vincentian forces. Barrow accused Adams of usurping authority and setting a dangerous precedent by sending troops into St Vincent.

Renwick Rose later stated that the UPM party had nothing to do with the uprising.

December 1979, St. Vincent:  In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the newly formed United People’s Movement, an alliance of three opposition parties including the socialist Youlou Liberation Movement, led by Ralph Gonsalves, raised up a leftist challenge to the Milton Cato government.  Milton Cato hated communist’s and therefore disliked Ralph Gonsalves. As Cato’s fright grew, the establishment became more and more hysterical. Cato’s rabid anti-communist campaign evoked echoes of Georgetown in the turbulent 1960s. Kathy Sunshine records: “…sound trucks patrolled the capital at 4 am booming: Do not let the communists take over in St. Vincent! If you vote UPM, you vote  for communism! If you have two sheep, they will take one! If you have one sheep, they will cut it in half!”

December 1979, St. Vincent:  General Elections, the United Peoples Movement (UPM) led by Ralph Gonsalves and Renwick Rose, won 14.5% of votes in the country but under the system won no parliamentary seats. The UPM had performed dismally. Their own analysis told them that in spite of their hopes, they were to academic in their approach and for the most part naïve. The UPM was the coming together of three main groups, namely DFM, which was a grouping of EFP, headed by Parnel Campbell and PDM, headed by Carlyle Dougan; ARWE, a group out of Diamonds Village, headed by Oscar Allen and YULIMO, a group ultimately as a result of the coming together of various predecessor groupings, from Rose Place. Shortly after the 1979 general elections, the DFM faction broke away. They lingered on for a short while and finally gave way by 1984, making way for one of its members, Eddie Griffithto contest  the Central Kingstown seat on an NDP ticket. The UPM struggled on under the leadership of Renwick Rose and Ralph Gonsalves, Gonsalves being a joint-absentee leader. The party became a virtual protégé of Maurice Bishop and the MJM in Grenada.

December 1979, Barbados:  Vincentian, Ralph E. Gonsalves was fired from his post as a lecturer at Cave Hill University and his work permit was revoked by the Barbadian government and made ‘persona non gratis’.  This was brought about by his  newspaper articles which were deemed seditious and communistic, communist propaganda.   Ralph E. Gonsalves, Vincentian,  lectured in Government  and Sociology at UWI (Barbados) from 1976-1979, Assumed the position of Visiting Professor at Queens College, Queens, New York, in 1980.

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