A brief Snapshot By Michael Derek Roberts
"The revolution was a decisive triumph for human rights in the country as will be gleaned from the performance of the government. The Revolutionary Government has demonstrated more respect and regard for human rights than any other government before it."
That was how the influential CARIBBEAN CONTACT newspaper put it.
And to most Grenadians, Carriacouians and Petite Martiniquians, the armed overthrow of the Gairy Dictatorship on March 13,1979 (while Gairy was on a visit to the United States) was a relief from 29 years of bondage. When General Hudson Austin, chief of the Peoples Revolutionary Army (PRA), went on Radio Grenada to proclaim "the government of the criminal dictator Eric Gairy has been overthrown," Grenadians all over the world were overjoyed. The seizure of political power was quickly consolidated as the new Peoples Revolutionary Government (PRG) named Maurice Bishop as prime minister and economist and Marxist strategist Bernard Coard as his deputy. Unison Whiteman was given the portfolio of foreign affairs. True to their promises over the years, the PRG immediately repealed a number of the draconian laws passed by Gairy and his Parliament. The new revolutionary government suspended the Constitution and set about passing a series of "People's Laws" aimed at redressing the evils of the Gairy years.
The first item on the agenda for change was to create a climate free from fear and persecution. The PRG arrested and detained many of Gairy's key people, including known elements of the "Mongoose Gang" and roughneck elements in the police force. They also removed from the immediate scene many of the political cronies of the fallen dictator. In keeping with its socialist orientation, the PRG shied away from the established system of Westminster-style democracy and focused on local grassroots organizations.
The government decentralized the system of political power and gave local village councils and regional assemblies more power to make decisions while the PRG acted as the umbrella organization. For the first time in Grenada's history hundreds of women, youths, and students had a say in their country's development through their participation in the Village Assemblies and Parish Coordinating Councils. To protect the working class and women, the PRG passed a series of laws designed to force businesses to recognize trade unions and to give the worker the right to join a trade union of his or her choice. Various forms of exploitation, commonplace under the Gairy regime, were outlawed and made punishable as crimes. These included sexual exploitation, job discrimination on the basis of sex, political and union affiliation.
Inspite of tremendous pressures from the "old guard" political establishment in the region and international reaction, the Grenada Revolution in four and a half short years made impressive strides at all levels of the society. It is a matter of historical record that the work of the people of Grenada and the PRG led by Prime Minister Maurice Bishop overshadowed that of any period in this tiny Caribbean island-nation's history.
"The Grenada Revolution was a revolution for democracy, for justice, for social progress, for equal participation by the people of our country in all the decisions which affect our lives. The Grenada Revolution, sisters and brothers, has reminded us over the past year of several historic truths that some of you may have forgotten. The revolution has reminded us, for example, of the great truth of history that a united people, a conscious people, an organized people, can defeat dictatorship, can defeat repression, can defeat imperialism and the other forces that try to hold back progress..."
- Maurice Bishop, March 13,1980.