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The New Jewel Movement (Grenada)

Introduction

The new joint endeavor for Welfare & Education, and liberation or New JEWEL Movement was formed in the Caribbean island nation of Grenada as a Marxist populist political movement. This movement ruled Grenada from 1979 to 1983; however, its true inception was March 11, 1973, after merging with Joint Endeavourers for Education and Liberation (JEWEL) and the intellectual Movement for Assemblies of the People (MAP). The New JEWEL movement was led by Grenadian revolutionary leader Maurice Rupert Bishop (Kai P, & Richard A, 1985).

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Bishop under the auspices of populist tenets construed the previous regime under Eric Gay, as being oppressive to the common man by the elite. He led people to believe that Eric Gay’s leadership existed only to serve its own interests. As a populist, he reached out to the people addressing their economic as well as social plights (Kai P, & Richard A, 1985). The movement’s objective was to liberate Grenada from foreign political, economic, and cultural domination. However, this was not realized during its rule as it ended up imposing upon Grenada’s alien tenets as well as unwanted international alliances (Brizon, 1998). Its initial message of unification and regeneration did not work as seen from its legacy of hatred confusion debt as well as disillusionment

The New Jewel Movement

The New Jewel Movement under the leadership of Bishop Maurice aimed at involving the citizens at large in the process of Governance. The organization stood for assembles of the people among other things and believed in a new form of government, a democratic one indeed. The organization was formed under the basic principle of a new structure of Government and self-reliance. It believed in collective leadership as opposed to a one-man dictatorship.

The manifesto of the New Jewel Movement (1973) fundamentally depicted people as having been created by the previous regimes (Brizon, 1998). The people suffered low wages and high cost of living with leaders (politicians) getting rich on daily basis. The government was seen to do nothing to address the plight of the people. Basic issues were not being addressed, for instance, medical treatment, unemployment while the police were serving the interest of the politicians.

It was versioned on a type of government consisting of two levels; the village assembly and the national assembly. Noting that Grenada was composed of about sixty villages, each village assembly was supposed to encompass every member of the village with the exception of children. The village would meet once a month to deliberate on matters affecting the village. Decisions of the village assembly would then be forwarded to the village council elected by the village assembly. This council (village) was supposed to carry out the day-to-day work of the village as well as put into cause plans and decisions of the village assembly. Village assembly or government mandate would include matters relating to health, police, morals people’s courts as well as public safety, and the village’s recreational facilities. The funds for the village assembly were envisaged to come from the national assembly.

The national assembly was supposed to be composed of about sixty members according to the number of villages. This was to be the government of the land headed by an elected chairman.

Structure of functions

First, there was the Bureau which was considered to be the highest decision-making organ. It was made up of about 10 or so persons elected by the NJM (New Jewel Movement) congress or convention. It appears that the movement had a form of centralized kind of organizational structure with the bureau having the mandate to co-opt people into it. Every member of the bureau was a secretary to one of the NJM’s committees. The Bureau met once a week. The movement had also two secretaries who were vested with the responsibility of running the entire activities of the organization. These secretaries were also members of the Bureau.

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There was also the national coordinating council composed of delegates from each village. This council had the power to accept or reject or modify the Bureau’s decisions or to take any other action that is considered to be proper. This structure called for the organization to hold monthly council meetings. There was also the NJM congress consisting of every member of the organization and scheduled to meet once a year. The congress was vested with the responsibility of electing the Bureau in addition to being the highest decision-making authority. In addition to Bureau, the National coordinating council, and congress there was also the local group (village). The village elected its representatives to the NJM national coordinating council.

As mentioned elsewhere concerning the bureau members as being secretaries to various committees, these committees included legal, defense, Finance and fundraising, organization, publications, education, research and community development, youth and students affairs, and finally workers affairs. The coordinating secretaries of NJM at its inception included Maurice Bishop and Wilson Whiteman (Kurlansky, 1992).

The movement leaders were people who had been inactive in politics for a period of 4 or 5 years. The party drew its support from the unemployed, the workers as well as the poor. The movement support lied in the countryside. In fact, the movement had its roots in St. David which is considered to be the most rural area in Grenada. The movement leaders were people generally considered to be honest as well as educated, as it involved lawyers’ teachers in addition to the unemployed and farmers. What these leaders had in common was the sense of dedication to the plight of the people was all of them matured through struggle.

The founders of this movement met regularly among themselves for months with the aim of developing group consciousness. Then they began small indoor meetings throughout the country before embarking on public meetings. The central leadership also included women as well as youth. Young people and students supported NJM whereas it was much more than a young people movement.

The National assembly would also be vested with the mandate of deciding which committee would head the different government departments. It was the body that would deliberate on issues facing the country including agriculture finance transportation foreign affairs, trade, civil and postal services, roads, education as well as hospitals. It was to be responsible for decisions relating to the distribution of funds to various village assembles.

National Assembly was supposed to elect a national council that would do day to day activities of the assembly. In addition to these assemblies, the government there was a proposition for a workers assembly that would control some aspects of the enterprise in addition to addressing conditions of workers. Each category of workers was envisaged to elect a representative to the national council (Kurlansky, 1992). The system of people’s assemblies was viewed to place power directly in the hands of the people as the village council was supposed to do what the village tells it to do. The village council members or the whole council could be replaced by the village assembly of their own volition while on the other hand, the national council operations were subject to the satisfaction of the National assembly.

The peoples’ assemblies were seen to avoid the divisions that the party systems had brought onto Grenada. The architects of this system considered the existing party system to be conflict-ridden as well as full of fraud as it did not encompass the people. They considered the government in existence to be a failure and a source of social misfortunes such as poverty, unemployment, and misery (Nicholas, Dissertation).

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The movement had formulated a number of methods of raising finance upon accenting to power for most of its projects. These included government revenue, profits of nationalized sectors such as banking, insurance companies, formerly foreign-owned hotels, and agro-industries as well as ministers savings on bulbul ministers’ salaries. They were also expectant of foreign grants and loans. For instance after the revolution and taking power from Eric Gairy the government turned to Cuba for assistance. Construction workers from Cuba were brought in to assist in the construction of the new international airport.

However, it should be noted that despite the party having a very nice manifesto, during its rule the government neither held elections nor provide a new constitution as it had promised. NJM was the only party in existence with government positions and the new army vacancies being offered to those affiliated to NJM or portraying Marxist principles. Of importance to note is that New Jewel Movement was rooted in the tenets of the black power politics-which addressed the question of poverty, colonialism, unequal access to power, and low status (Kurlansky, 1992).

References

  1. Brizon, George, Grenada: Island of conflict, Macmillan 1998.
  2. Kai P. Schoenhals and Richard A. Melanson, 1985. Revolution and intervention in Grenada : the New Jewel Movement, the United States, and the Caribbean Boulder : West view Press
  3. Kurlansky, Mark 1992. A continent of islands searching for the Caribbean destiny. Addison Wesley Publishing
  4. Nicholas Dujmovic Dissertation “All rights are not for them: The Totalization Temptation and its failure in revolutionary Grenada, 1973 – 1983”

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