PEP COLUMN: Reflections on Grantley Adams
Fri, April 20, 2012 - 12:00 AM
As the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) celebrates its 74th anniversary, its members would do well to reflect on the career of Sir Grantley Adams. He had several virtues but he also made some very serious mistakes that cost this country and the West Indies dearly. These mistakes are as follows:
Adams devoted the early part of his career to an unrelenting attack on Dr Charles Duncan O’Neal, the leading progressive reformer in 1920s Barbados. Adams willingly allowed himself to be used by the racist white plantocracy to besmirch O’Neal’s reputation and to help defeat the candidates of O’Neal’s Democratic League.
By 1930, Clennel Wickham and his Herald newspaper were the most articulate critics of the oppressive Barbadian oligarchy. Adams undertook to represent Walter Bayley, a wealthy white merchant, in a vindictive libel lawsuit against Wickham and secured a punitive judgment that caused the closure of the Herald and the exile of Wickham.
In 1938 Chrissie Brathwaite, John Martineau, Wynter Crawford, Edwy Talma, Hugh Cummins and Philip Payne formed the Barbados Labour Party, under the presidency of Brathwaite, and invited Adams to join them as vice-president.
The BLP and its trade union arm, the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), were rapidly developed, largely through the efforts of general secretary Herbert Seale. However, within the space of one year, Adams manufactured a crisis in the organization and attacked, ousted and virtually destroyed Brathwaite, Martineau and Seale!
By 1948, the United Nations was playing a critical role in challenging colonialism and the British Colonial Office decided that it needed to respond by arranging for a black man from one of the colonies to speak at the UN in defence of Britain’s colonial policies.
The black man they settled on was Grantley Adams and he outraged the progressive international anti-colonial movement with a shameful speech at the UN General Assembly in defence of British colonialism!
In the early 1950s Guyana was leading the anti-colonial movement in the West Indies and by 1953, the then multi-racial Peoples Progressive Party – led by Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham – had been elected to office.
The British colonial masters responded by suspending Guyana’s constitution and by deploying warships to invade Guyana and to imprison Guyanese activists. Adams supported and defended this imperialistic attack on Guyana.
As early as the 1930s, the nationalist activists of the West Indies had established a progressive agenda for the region, featuring the establishment of a multi-territory “federation” as the major plank upon which independence and a planned regional economy would be built.
However, the British-loving Adams and Norman Manley took over control of the West Indian progressive movement and, under their leadership, the British Colonial Office was permitted to negatively transform the West Indian concept of “federation” into the non-independent, glorified Crown Colony that was foisted on the West Indian people in 1958. Not surprisingly, this British concocted federation collapsed in 1962.
A little reflection on these mistakes will tell us much about what we need to correct in Barbados and the Caribbean.
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