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Maurice Rupert Bishop (29 May 1944 – 19 October 1983) was a Grenadian politician and the leader of New Jewel Movement – popular efforts in the areas of socio-economic development, education, and Black liberation – that came to power during the 13 March 1979 revolution that removed Eric Gairy from office. Bishop headed the People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada from 1979 to 1983, when he was dismissed from his post and shot during the coup by Bernard Coard, a staunch militaristic element in the government, leading to upheaval.[1]

The Right Honourable
Maurice Bishop
Maurice Bishop 1982-06-11.jpg
Bishop in Saxony, East Germany
11 June 1982
2nd Prime Minister of Grenada
Under People's Revolutionary Government
In office
13 March 1979 – 16 October 1983
Monarch Elizabeth II (nominal)
Governor General Sir Paul Scoon (powers limited)
Deputy Bernard Coard
Preceded by Sir Eric Gairy
Succeeded by Bernard Coard
Personal details
Born Maurice Rupert Bishop
(1944-05-29)29 May 1944
Aruba, Netherlands Antilles
Died 19 October 1983(1983-10-19) (aged 39)
St. George's, Grenada
Nationality Grenadian
Political party New Jewel Movement
Spouse(s) Angela Bishop (1966–1981)
Domestic partner Jacqueline Creft
Children Nadia (born 1969)
John (born 1967)
Vladimir Lenin (born 1978, died 1994)
Education London School of Economics
King's College London

Contents

BiographyEdit

Maurice Rupert Bishop was born on 29 May 1944 off the coast of Venezuela on the island of Aruba, then a colony of the Netherlands as part of the Netherlands Antilles. His parents, Rupert and Elment Bishop, came from the northeast of the British island of Grenada, where his father earned only 5 British pence per day. At the end of 1930, to improve his financial position, he moved to the oil fields of the island of Aruba with his wife Elment.[2]

Childhood and adolescenceEdit

Till the age of six, Maurice was reared in Aruba with two older sisters Anne and Moran. In 1950 his father took the family back to Grenada and opened a small retail shop in the capital, St. George's.[2] Maurice was sent to study at the Wesleyan elementary school, but after a year transferred to the Roman Catholic St George primary and high school.[3] At age nine Maurice was teased because of his height which made him look much older. As an only son, his father pushed his education and expected much of him. He expected perfect grades from him, not 95 but 100%, and when the family purchased a car his mother expected him to walk to school like the others.[2]

For his secondary education, Maurice received one of the four government scholarships for study at the Roman Catholic Presentation Brothers' College.[3] He was elected president of the Student Council, of the Discussion Club, and of the History Study Group, along with editing the newspaper Student Voice and participating in sports. He later recalled "Here I had much interest in politics, history and sociology." He also established contacts with students from the Anglican Grenada Boys Secondary School, his own school's competitors.[2] He was an ardent supporter of the West Indies Federation established in 1958 and the ideas of Caribbean nationalism. He also recalled the great interest the 1959 Cuban Revolution aroused in him. Bishop recalled: "In fact, for us it did not matter what we heard on the radio or read in the colonial press. For us, it comes down to the courage and legendary heroism of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara. ...Nothing could overshadow this aspect of the Cuban Revolution."

In those same years Bishop and his colleagues became interested in reading the works of Julius Nyerere and Frantz Fanon.[2] In 1962 Bishop graduated with a gold medal for his outstanding ability.[3]

Shortly before graduation, in early 1962, Bishop and youth leader from Grenada Boys Secondary School Bernard Coard, created the Grenada Assembly of Youth Fighting for Truth, designed to bring the island youth to political life in a debate over pressing issues. Members gathered on Friday in Saint George's main square and arranged open political debates among the people. Both friends and enemies celebrated his charisma and good oratory skills, including his skillful use of humor in his speeches.[3]

Education in EnglandEdit

But in nine months Bishop and the other Assembly leaders had left to study at universities in Europe and the United States, ending the group's activities. In December 1963 the 19-year-old Maurice Bishop arrived in London to study law at the University of London, and Coard traveled to the US to study economics at Brandeis University. In London, Bishop received his Bachelor of Law at Gray's Inn in 1966.[3] He often worked in London as a postman or vegetable packer. In 1963–1966, Bishop was president of the Students Association of Holborn College and in 1967 headed the association of students of the Royal College. While studying Grenada history Bishop focused on the head of the uprising in 1795, Julien Fédon, and other anti-British speeches. In 1964 he participated the Standing Conference of the West India Company and Campaign Against Racial Discrimination. He travelled from the UK to socialist Czechoslovakia and the German Democratic Republic. During this period he studied the works of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao Zedong, but was particularly impressed by the book by Julius Nyerere published Oxford University Press in 1968: Ujamaa' – Essays on Socialism and Nyerere's Arusha Declaration of 1967.[3]

In 1967–1969 years Bishop worked on his thesis "Constitutional development of Grenada", but left the job because of disagreements with the supervisor in assessing the disturbances in 1951. In 1969 he received a law degree and also became one of the founders of the legal aid office of the West Indies community in London's Notting Hill Gate, a volunteer work. His main source of income became as auditor of additional taxes on the British civil service. During this period he corresponded with friends and developed a two-year plan of activities upon his return to Grenada. The plan called for temporary withdrawal from participation in political activities and his work as a lawyer to create with others an organization capable of taking power on the island.[2]

Returning to Grenada, in December 1970 Bishop gave legal defense to striking nurses at St. George's General Hospital, who hoped to improve the living conditions of patients. He was arrested along with 30 others while protesting alongside them. All were acquitted after a seven-month trial.[3] In 1972 he helped organize a conference in Martinique that discussed and strategized actions for liberation movements. The philosophy of Julius Nyerere and Tanzanian socialism would be guiding elements for the Movement for Assemblies of the People (MAP) which Bishop helped organize after the elections of 1972. He. along with Kenrick Radix and Jacqueline Creft, were interested in steering MAP toward construction of popular institutions centered in villages, to facilitate broad participation in the country’s affairs.[2]

In January 1973 MAP merged with the Joint Endeavor for Welfare, Education, and Liberation (JEWEL) to form the New Jewel Movement (NJM). Bishop shared the leadership as Joint Coordinating Secretary with Unison Whiteman.[2]

Grenada "Bloody Sunday"Edit

On 18 November 1973, Bishop and other leaders of the New Jewel Movement were driving in two cars from St George's to Grenville where they were to meet with businessmen of the city. Security forces under Assistant Chief Constable Aynesent Belmar overtook Bishop's motorcade. Nine persons were captured, arrested, and beaten by the government. In prison they shaved their beards, revealing Bishop's broken jaw. These events became known in Grenada as "Bloody Sunday."[3]

"Bloody Monday"Edit

Bishop joined a mass demonstration against Gairy on 21 January 1974. As his group returned to their hotel, they were pelted with stones and bottles by Gairy's supporters, and the security forces used tear gas. Rupert Bishop, Maurice's father, was leading women and children away from the danger, and was himself shot and killed at the door of the hotel. This became known in Grenada as "Bloody Monday." Bishop said that after this "we realized that we were unable to lead the working class" since the party had no influence in city workers unions or among the rural folk loyal to Gairy. With his colleagues he developed a new strategy, focusing not on propaganda and mobilization for anti-government demonstrations but on organization of party groups and cells.[2]

Strange conspiracy Independence DayEdit

On 6 February 1974, the day before the proclamation of the independent state of Grenada, Bishop was arrested on charges of plotting an armed anti-government conspiracy and taken to the Fort George prison. Police said that while searching his house they found weapons, ammunition, equipment, and uniforms, along with a plan to assassinate Eric Gairy in a night club, and a scheme for guerrilla camps. But following Independence day, on 8 February 1974, Bishop was released on bail and soon after went to the United States. On 29 March 1974 he participated in a meeting of the Regional Steering Committee of the Pan-African Congress in Guyana. He also continued in his law practice, in October 1974 defending Desmond "Ras Kabinda" Trotter and Roy Mason who were accused of murdering an American tourist.

In October 1975 he would speak at a seminar on "Fascism: A Caribbean Reality?", organized by the Oilfield Workers Trade Union in Trinidad, and he represented the Nutmeg Board as solicitor in High Court. In November 1975 the NJM Political Bureau formed a Grenada-Cuba Friendship Association, with Bishop one of the initial leaders.[3] In 1976, he was elected to represent St. George's South-East in Parliament. For several years he held the position of leader of the opposition in the Grenadian House of Representatives, opposing the government of Prime Minister Eric Gairy and his Grenada United Labour Party (GULP), which maintained power by terrorism and fraudulent elections. In May 1977 Bishop made his first visit to Cuba, along with Unison Whiteman, as leaders of the NJM and as guests of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with People (ICAP).[3]

PremiershipEdit

 
Bishop in Bautzen, East Germany, 1982
 
In East Berlin, 1982

In 1979 Bishop's party staged a revolution and deposed Gairy, who was out of the country addressing the United Nations at the time. Bishop became Prime Minister of Grenada and suspended the constitution.

Maurice Bishop has been styled a “brilliant communicator” with an empathy for the masses that was the driving force of the “Grenadian Revolution of 1979 that overthrew the corrupt and pro-imperialist administration of Eric Gairy.”[4]

Bishop established a relationship with Cuba after he took power. He initiated a number of projects, most significantly, the building of a new international airport on the island's southern tip (that in May 2009 was renamed in his memory). Financing and labour for the construction of the airport came from Cuba, although most of the airport’s infrastructure was designed by European and North American consultants. American President Ronald Reagan accused Grenada of intending to use the new airport’s long “airstrip” as a waypoint for Soviet military aircraft. Fearful of the spread of socialism, Reagan, who had spurned Bishop's overtures for friendship,[5] planned an invasion of Grenada, but this took place only after Bishop's execution.[6]

Among Bishop's core principles were workers' rights, women's rights, and the struggle against racism and Apartheid.[7] Under Bishop's leadership, the National Women’s Organization was formed which participated in policy decisions along with other social groups. Women were given equal pay and paid maternity leave, and sex discrimination was made illegal. Organisations for education (Center for Popular Education), health care, and youth affairs (National Youth Organization) were also established. Despite its achievements, Bishop's government would not hold elections and stifled a free press and the opposition. perhaps due to fear of outside interference.[2] The People's Revolutionary Army (PRA) was also formed during Bishop's administration. Critics claimed that the army was a waste of resources, and there were complaints that the PRA was used as a tool to commit human rights abuses, such as torture and detention of political dissidents without trial.[8] The establishment of voluntary mass organizations of women, farmers, youth, workers, and militia were presumed to make the holding of elections unnecessary, and elections could be manipulated by the input of large sums of money from foreign interests.[9][10]

Bishop has been quoted at length on the dynamics of "democracy":

There are those ... who believe that you cannot have a democracy unless there is a situation where every five years ... people are allowed to put an "X" next to some candidate’s name, and ... they return to being non-people without the right to say anything to their government, without any right to be involved in running their country. ...Elections could be important, but for us the question is one of timing. ...We would much rather see elections come when the economy is more stable, when the Revolution is more consolidated. When more people have in fact had benefits brought to them. When more people are literate ...The right of freedom of expression can really only be relevant if people are not too hungry, or too tired to be able to express themselves. It can only be relevant if appropriate grassroots mechanisms rooted in the people exist, through which the people can effectively participate. ...We talk about the human rights that the majority has never been able to enjoy, ... to a job, to decent housing, to a good meal. ...These human rights have been the human rights for a small minority over the years in the Caribbean and the time has come for the majority of the people to begin to receive those human rights for the first time.”[11]

Bishop introduced free public health; illiteracy dropped from 35% to 5% and unemployment from 50% to 14%. But its weak point was tourism. He unpacked the old project of an international airport and asked his friend Fidel Castro for help.

When Coard arrested Bishop protestors numbering 30,000 on an island of 100,000 gathered and even the guards joined the protest, releasing Bishop. But Bishop, knowing the determination of the Coard faction, confided in a journalist: "I am a dead man."[12]

Arrest and executionEdit

In 1983, disputes among the party leadership occurred. A military junta group within the party tried to make Bishop either step down or agree to a power-sharing agreement with Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard.[13] Bishop rejected these proposals and was eventually deposed and placed under house arrest during the first week of October 1983 by Coard. Large public demonstrations in various parts of the island demanded Bishop's freedom and restoration. During one demonstration, the crowd freed Bishop from house arrest. Firstly in a truck but then by car, Bishop made his way to the army headquarters at Fort Rupert (known today as Fort George). After he arrived, a military force was dispatched from Fort Frederick to Fort Rupert. Fighting broke out at Fort Rupert, and many civilians were killed. Bishop and seven others, including cabinet ministers, were captured. Then a four-man Peoples Revolutionary Army firing squad executed by machine-gunning him with three members of his Cabinet plus four others. After he was dead, a gunman slit his throat and cut off his finger to steal his ring. The bodies were then transported to a military camp and partially burned in a pit. The location of the remains is still unknown. [14]

Partly as a result of Bishop's murder, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), and the nations of Barbados and Jamaica, appealed to the United States for assistance as did Grenada's governor-general, Paul Scoon and then United States President Reagan launched an invasion.

FamilyEdit

Maurice Bishop married nurse Angela Redhead in 1966. They had two children, Nadia (born 1969) and John (born 1971). Angela emigrated to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with both children in 1981, while Bishop was still prime minister. He also fathered a son, Vladimir Lenin (1978–94), with his longtime partner Jacqueline Creft (1947–83), who was Grenada's Minister of Education.[15] Creft was killed alongside Bishop at the confrontation at Fort Rupert on 19 October 1983. After his parents' deaths, Vladimir joined his half-siblings in Canada, but was stabbed to death in a Toronto nightclub at the age of 16.[16]

LegacyEdit

On 29 May 2009, Grenada's international airport (formerly Point Salines International Airport) was renamed Maurice Bishop International Airport.[17][18][19] Speaking at the ceremony, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said: "This belated honour to an outstanding Caribbean son will bring closure to a chapter of denial in Grenada’s history."[20]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Biography: Maurice Bishop". Grenada Government. 2009-09-23. Retrieved 2015-01-08. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Luna Mendoza, Jorge, Granada: La Nueva Joya del Caribe (Grenada: The New Jewel of the Caribbean] [in Spanish only], Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1982, pp. 72-192.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Maurice Bishop Biography". www.thegrenadarevolutiononline.com. Retrieved 2017-06-06. 
  4. ^ Chris Searle, ed. In Nobody’s Backyard: a volume of Bishop’s speeches. Zed Books, ISBN 0862322480. Hugh O’Shaughnessy: Grenada – Revolution, Invasion and Aftermath. Sphere Books. ISBN 0722165617
  5. ^ "Bishop, Maurice (1944–1983) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed". www.blackpast.org. Retrieved 2017-06-05. 
  6. ^ Ceja, Lucho Granados. "Remembering Maurice Bishop and Grenada's Revolution". Retrieved 2017-06-05. 
  7. ^ "Maurice Bishop Speech to the 34th General Assembly of the United Nations, New York". Quoted on Assata Shakur website.
  8. ^ Adkin, Mark. Urgent Fury, p. 9, 1989, ISBN 0-669-20717-9
  9. ^ "Answers – The Most Trusted Place for Answering Life's Questions". Answers.com. Retrieved 2017-06-05. 
  10. ^ Tharoor, Ishaan. "Analysis | The long history of the U.S. interfering with elections elsewhere". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-06-05. 
  11. ^ "Forward Ever, Backward Never: Remembering Maurice Bishop – Invent the Future". Invent the Future. 2013-10-19. Retrieved 2017-06-06. 
  12. ^ País, Ediciones El (1994-08-19). "Reportaje | 'Apocalypso now'". EL PAÍS (in Spanish). Retrieved 2017-06-06. 
  13. ^ País, Ediciones El (1994-08-19). "Reportaje | 'Apocalypso now'". EL PAÍS (in Spanish). Retrieved 2017-06-06. 
  14. ^ http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/06/08/grenada-trying-to-find-remains-slain-marxist-pm.html
  15. ^ "Jacqueline Creft (1947–1983)", The Grenada Revolution Online.
  16. ^ The Grenada Revolution Online – Maurice Bishop biography.
  17. ^ Stephen Millies, "Welcome to Maurice Bishop International Airport", Workers World, 14 June 2009.
  18. ^ "What About the Airport?" The Grenada Revolution Online.
  19. ^ "Grenada names airport in honour of fomer PM Maurice Bishop", Jamaica Gleaner, 31 May 2009.
  20. ^ "Welcome to Maurice Bishop International Airport", Grenada Herald, 31 May 2009.

External linksEdit