In Nobody's Backyard
By Maurice Bishop, The Militant, Vol.63 no.10, 15 March 1999
Twenty years ago, on March 13, 1979, the New Jewel Movement under the leadership of Maurice Bishop organized an armed uprising against the U.S-backed dictatorship of Eric Gairy. Thousands of Grenadians responded to a radio appeal by Bishop to come into the streets, ensuring revolutionary victory. The new workers and farmers government organized agrarian reform to benefit small farmers and farm workers, expanded trade union rights, advanced women's equality in the workplace, established literacy programs, and instituted free medical care. Just four and a half years later, Bishop and five other central leaders of the revolutionary government were arrested and murdered by a counterrevolutionary coup led by Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard.
This led to the invasion of thousands of U.S. Marines and Army Rangers Oct. 25, 1983, under the pretext of "saving" U.S. medical students in Grenada. The move was aimed at establishing a military occupation and brutally reversing the deep-going advances gained as a result of the revolution.
Below we print excerpts from a speech by Bishop broadcasted nationally over Radio Free Grenada on April 13, 1979, entitled "In Nobody's Backyard." It is published in Maurice Bishop Speaks: The Grenada Revolution and Its Overthrow 1979-83. Copyright (c) 1983 by Pathfinder Press, reprinted by permission.
Good evening sisters and brothers of free Grenada:
Today, one month after our historic people's revolution, there is peace, calm, and quiet in our country. Indeed, there has been a tremendous drop in the crime rate since our revolution. Foreign residents in the Levera-Bathway are feeling so comfortable and safe nowadays that they have advised the commissioner of police that he could close down the sub-police station in that area. An unusually high number of tourists for an off-season period are presently enjoying the beauty of our land and the warmth of our people, and this is so in spite of the fact that we have just had a revolution and that a real and present threat of mercenary invasion is faced by our country....
For this reason we want the people of Grenada and the Caribbean to realize that if all of a sudden tourists start panicking and leaving the country, or stop coming to our country, then they should note that this came after veiled threats by the United States ambassador with respect to our tourist industry. The ambassador, Mr. Frank Ortiz, on his last visit to Grenada some days ago, went out of his way to emphasize the obvious importance of tourism to our country.... The ambassador went on to advise us that if we continue to speak about what he called "mercenary invasions by phantom armies" we could lose all our tourists....
At the end of our discussion on Tuesday, the ambassador handed me a typed statement of his instructions from his government, to be given to us. The relevant section of that statement reads, and I quote: "Although my government recognizes your concerns over allegations of a possible counter-coup, it also believes that it would not be in Grenada's best interest to seek assistance from a country such as Cuba to forestall such an attack. We would view with displeasure any tendency on the part of Grenada to develop closer ties with Cuba."
It is well established internationally that all independent countries have a full, free, and unhampered right to conduct their own internal affairs. We do not therefore recognize any right of the United States of America to instruct us on who we may develop relations with and who we may not.
From day one of the revolution we have always striven to have and develop the closest and friendliest relations with the United States, as well as with Canada, Britain, and all our Caribbean neighbors-English, French, Dutch, and Spanish speaking, and we intend to continue to strive for these relations. But no one must misunderstand our friendliness as an excuse for rudeness and meddling in our affairs, and no one, no matter how mighty and powerful they are, will be permitted to dictate to the government and people of Grenada who we can have friendly relations with and what kind of relations we must have with other countries. We haven't gone through twenty-eight years of fighting Gairyism, and especially the last six years of terror, to gain our freedom, only to throw it away and become a slave or lackey to any other country, no matter how big and powerful....
[W]e reject entirely the argument of the American ambassador that we would only be entitled to call upon the Cubans to come to our assistance after mercenaries have landed and commenced the attack. Quite frankly, and with the greatest respect, a more ridiculous argument can hardly be imagined. It is like asking a man to wait until his house is burning down before he leaves to buy a fire extinguisher. No, we intend if possible to provide ourselves with the fire extinguisher before the fire starts! And if the government of Cuba is willing to offer us assistance, we would be more than happy to receive it. Sisters and brothers, what we led was an independent process. Our revolution was definitely a popular revolution, not a coup d'etat, and was and is in no way a minority movement....
We are a small country, we are a poor country, with a population of largely African descent, we are a part of the exploited Third World, and we definitely have a stake in seeking the creation of a new international economic order which would assist in ensuring economic justice for the oppressed and exploited peoples of the world, and in ensuring that the resources of the sea are used for the benefit of all the people of the world and not for a tiny minority of profiteers. Our aim, therefore, is to join all organizations and work with all countries that will help us to become more independent and more in control of our own resources. In this regard, nobody who understands present-day realities can seriously challenge our right to develop working relations with a variety of countries.
Grenada is a sovereign and independent country, although a tiny speck on the world map, and we expect all countries to strictly respect our independence just as we will respect theirs. No country has the right to tell us what to do or how to run our country or who to be friendly with. We certainly would not attempt to tell any other country what to do. We are not in anybody's backyard, and we are definitely not for sale. Anybody who thinks they can bully us or threaten us clearly has no understanding, idea, or clue as to what material we are made of. They clearly have no idea of the tremendous struggles which our people have fought over the past seven years. Though small and poor, we are proud and determined. We would sooner give up our lives before we compromise, sell out, or betray our sovereignty, our independence, our integrity, our manhood, and the right of our people to national self-determination and social progress.
Long live the revolution!