Interviews with Ken Ramchand
OWTU Guest House, San Fernando, Trinidad & Tobago
Source: Banyan, 15 Cipriani Boulevard, Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago;
Published: The Caribbean Voice: (868) 623 9756; Fax: (868) 624 2052; E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org
Location: OWTU Guest House, San Fernando, Trinidad & Tobago;
K.R. (Ken Ramchand) – Yours has been a long life of action and involvement, and now you are writing your autobiography, what form is it taking, and are your own reflections on your doings revealing things you hadn’t fully realised before?
CLR – That is inevitable. I am seeing things now in my books when I read them which I wasn’t fully aware of when I wrote them. But one follows a certain logic, a certain dialectical method and with an eye on historical points, so that things are there which are inherent in the movement at what you are doing, you may not see it at the time, but as history develops, you see that you have been doing that before, that is taking place in many things that I am doing in the autobiography, I am seeing things today that I didn’t see fifty or sixty years ago.
K.R. – I remember reading a section dealing with your relationships with women and I got the feeling that you tackled the topic so early in the book and gave it prominence very deliberately.
CLR – No that is not so, I tackled it early because I wanted to get it out of the way, but it will appear either the chapter before the last or two chapters before the last, but I wrote it early as there are other things that I have written earlier than before, I am not writing the book in sequence so that’s why that chapter on women which I thought extremely important, I wrote it early and have circulated it to friends of mine, chiefly women because I want that to be as sound as possible.
K.R. – But why do you think it is important?
CLR – Because today, in my opinion one of the great events in the world is that women are seeking to find out who and what they are, they have hitherto accepted the roles and functions that men who were in charge of society put them in, but today they’re finished with that, they want to find out who I am, not what Nineteenth century Victorian Englishmen thought about me, not what people in the Eighteenth century thought about me, not what Greek people thought about me in the years when the Greek civilisation was at its best, I want to find out who I am, what I am, what I have been and what I am likely to do. That to me is one of the great events that are taking place and I wanted to say what I had to say and make a contribution to that clarification.
K.R. – But do you feel that the position you are now taking is a very different one to one you might have held as a young man?
CLR – Very much so. I may as well say it, I have been married three times. There were some very satisfactory relations during those marriages but they didn’t work out completely as I wished and now during the last ten years I have got to see that wherever they went wrong, the fault was mine. I was deficient in understanding and knowledge that’s what I have seen, that’s why I am so anxious to have that Chapter properly written, but I don’t want to mix it up with the rest so I put it there by itself.
K.R. – Well apart from the Chapter on women, was there any other Chapter that struck you as needing to be written very early?
CLR – Yes, the Chapters that concern me most, are at the very beginning, my life in the Caribbean. I am concerned with that because I don’t want to have a few thousand words about my life in the Caribbean, and then go on to my life in the USA, in Africa, in Europe and England, United States; not at all. Much that has taken place in my life abroad was established on the foundations laid while I was in the Caribbean, so those very Chapters mean a great deal to me because they make the book a total whole. I didn’t leave here and go to England and learn everything, I took with me a great deal of what I was already.
K.R. – You mean to refer to your involvement in Cricket, your involvement in Western intellectual traditions, and in our educational system?
CLR – Yes, but also the people I used to meet every day. I used to meet three or four young men who were fascinated by my interest in sport. I used to write about sport in the Papers, they were fascinated by my knowledge of literature and they used to come and listen to my music and I also used to have a lot of conversations with the grounds men on the Queen’s Park Savannah because Stingo, Shannon, Constabulary and Maple were all within two hundred yards of each other and I used to go up early and talk to them and they got in the habit of talking to me about things in general and these young men used to talk to me, and by and large I have found that a great deal of my attitude to people was established in the way that I used to talk to them and they used to talk to me. I used to talk to them recognising that they were not deficient in literature and therefore deficient, and they used to talk to me as someone who was ready to talk to them and treat them on the level, and those were important circumstances of my early life that had an enormous influence on my attitudes to the Labour Movement in England.
K.R. – Well I think it is very clear from something like Minty Alley that this is a problem with which you were engaged from the very beginning, that is the relationship between the educated West Indian and the ordinary people around him.
CLR – I will, I will spend some time on that. My father was a teacher, and there were teachers all around, his friends, they were working for the Government and their behaviour was within strictly limited areas. They weren’t able to do anything out of place, there would be a little, ahh irregular fornication here and there and now and then a baby might appear, but even that they could manage, but their life was narrow, limited and very constricted according to certain principles and attitudes. But in Shakespeare, Aeschylus, in Tolstoy, in Dostoyevsky and the rest of them, things were taking place and tremendous conflicts were taking place and I found in the Caribbean, that in the life in which I had been brought up and in which all those teachers lived there was nothing corresponding to the violent conflicts and explosions and peculiar and interesting happenings that I found in Classic Literature, so that I talked to them because they were expressing and telling me about things that I was reading about. My family kept within a very narrow range, they had to be, being teachers.
K.R. – When you took part in the activities of the Beacon, were you in any way reacting deliberately against this safe kind of background?
CLR – No, but I was doing work in the background with which I was familiar owing to my interest in the kind of life and the kind of conversations that these people used to have with me, so when I had to write I couldn’t write about my father and my mother and my godfather and my aunt’s husband who lived rather narrow constricted lives. I wrote about these.
K.R. – But it might be worth writing about the people in our society who live narrow constricted lives under the impression that they are living full lives.
CLR – It might be worth it, it might be. there is a man who is doing it today, that is Michael Alexander, he is doing it. But I ...
K.R. – Where is he doing it?
CLR – In his novels.
K.R. – Michael
CLR – He’s a San Fernando man, he wrote A Year in San Fernando
K.R. – ohh Michael Anthony.
CLR – Michael Anthony, he is writing, but even he has to realise that there are explosions in his books which are not normal in the lives of the middle class people in Trinidad. That is what happened to me, and that’s why I wrote Triumph and that’s why I wrote Minty Alley they were so different from the lives of the people I knew and lived with where I had been brought up, and reality so close to Aeschylus, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky and the rest of them.
K.R. – Now you said that when you left Trinidad, all the formative influences had begun to work upon you already. Did you know when you left Trinidad that you were going to write The Black Jacobins?
CLR – Yes and no. I had already written and published in Trinidad, but I was interested in some black history or history of black people where they did something, and they were not being continually the subject of actions and attitudes of other people and I had discovered in Trinidad that the only place where that was clear was in the history of the revolution in San Domingo, and I had made up my mind in Trinidad that in addition to novels and short stories. I would write that story, but I didn’t think of it in terms of the Black Jacobins. When I went to England and then I went to France to look up the Archives there I saw the revolution of the colonial and underdeveloped peoples.
K.R. – Can you remember a date, or a year when you went to France to check on the Archives?
CLR – I went to England in 1932 and I must have gone to France to see about this in 1934 or 1935, but meanwhile as soon as I went to England, I began importing books from France which dealt very fully with that literature and I began importing books from Haiti, so by the time I went to France in about ’34 or ’35, I already had a great deal of knowledge.
K.R. – It has not been, I don’t think it has been reprinted recently, A History of Negro Revolt, but did you write that before Black Jacobins?
CLR – No I wrote it afterwards. It has been reprinted in the United States, where they called it The History of Pan-African Revolt and I added another chapter bringing it up to date. I had written it in England in ’38 but I added another chapter up to ’69, I did it from ’39 to about ’69.
K.R. – Coming back to the Jacobins, it is a book that has worn very well, I mean it’s fifty years later and just last year it was being dramatised.
CLR – I had dramatised it before. I had dramatised it in 1936 in England, before I wrote the book, and Paul Robeson played the leading part which was a tremendous experience in my life, to see him, every day at rehearsals for three or four weeks, that was something, he remains as I have written, the most remarkable human being I have ever seen or heard of, I can’t go into that now, but then that was done, and the play was shown to him, and he said yes he would do it, and he did it, that was ’36, well by 1967, the colonial struggles for emancipation had developed tremendously and I re-wrote it, because twenty five years of history, I re-wrote the play, not the book, the book is as it always has been, and I re-wrote it and it was played by a West Indian in Nigeria, Dexter Lyndersay, he played it, and then it was brought here and it was played on the BBC in London, and it was played in Jamaica.
K.R. – But how would you account for this continuing interest?
CLR – Because the black, an edition, I went to England a year ago, and a new edition is being, has been published. Here it is, and the interest is in because the people in the Caribbean and people in England, are very, and people everywhere, there has been a French translation and an Italian translation, and people everywhere are interested in the African emancipation, their getting out of the situation they’ve been in for so many centuries, and this book speaks of a revolution that took place, but I want to say, I was disappointed, after 25 years, 1963 nobody had written again developing the ideas because after 25 years have passed, your history can be developed and then somewhere about 1975 I got a book from France, a book written by a gentleman called Jose Fouchard(?), he’s a Haitian and he has written a book in which he said that the originators of the revolution and the people who founded the Haitian nations were not the slaves as I believed, although they took a great part, they were the Maroons, those who had run away and established life of their own, they came back to make the revolution and to give some foundation to the revolution and by the way, he has done that and I am deeply impressed with it, I am glad somebody has gone on and he was very much pleased with my Black Jacobins and he got me to write an introduction to his book, which I have done and that will be out very soon, I recommend it, it’s a stage further as history ought to be.
K.R. – One of the things about the Jacobins, apart from seeing it as people’s revolutions, seeing as the first successful black revolution and so on, it seems to me to raise the whole question of leadership, ’cause one of Toussaint’s problems was who am I and what kind of leader am I, what am I to do next and it raised the question of leadership in the context of a man who had been exposed to all kinds of Western influences and who had in him, alive in him also African traditions, so he was really asking no only what kind of leader am I, but what kind of man am I as a Caribbean man?
CLR – But as a Caribbean man Toussaint achieved and failed because he became entirely the representative of the French revolution and the Roman Catholic church and Dessalines was successful first because Toussaint had laid the foundation and secondly because he didn’t care anything about anything except the freedom of the Haitian people.
K.R. – So Toussaint’s problem was that he wasn’t strongly enough rooted in Haitian reality?
CLR – I wouldn’t say Haitian reality because he laid the foundation of the Haitian state and he broke away from slavery and manoeuvred with extreme skill and success among the various forces, but he remained to the end somebody for whom the French decree of emancipation was the basis of society, that was the way he saw things and he knew that, it seemed to him without the French the Haitians could not make their entry into modern society and therefore he hesitated at the correct moment, there is this to be said for him he manoeuvred with the French and took a lot of risks because he believed that the French could never restore slavery in San Domingo, he believed that, so the risks he took were taken with that background, so he lost his life but Dessalines was able to carry on.....
K.R. – but Dessalines had no ideas
CLR – ...... no Dessalines was a follower of Toussaint and when Toussaint was taken Dessalines helped them to take Toussaint because Toussaint at the last moment was hesitating and Dessalines was ready to go on, and he said people believe Toussaint is the leader and until Toussaint is out of the way they will not know that I am the leader for the struggle for emancipation. So he turned a blind eye to the fact that the French said they were not going to kill Toussaint, they were only going to take him to France and he said OK, and the moment they took Toussaint away he became leader and he carried the revolution to a success, but there is this to be said for Dessalines he and Toussaint had as superior, the only soldier superior to them in that period of military achievement, was Bonaparte. Dessalines and Toussaint were commanders of the first rank, I want to make that very clear, they were not people fighting in some colonial struggle, not at all they were modern soldiers and they defeated the British, the French and Spaniards, because they were modern soldiers. Dessalines in particular was a superb soldier, that that I have made that clear, and you know how I managed to know that, I went to Paris to look up the archives and people told me there is a Haitian here a man attached to a French army as a representative of the Haitian army, General Mamou(?) but he told me that he was General in the Haitian army, but in France he was only Colonel, and he had written an extensive two volume on the history of the campaign, and he was delighted to find a West Indian doing the history of the San Domingo and interested in the military battles so he used to sit down and tell me all about it. So that I remember we used to sit down drinking coffee and he would be having a teacup and saucers telling me the battles, and I would read the accounts that the French had given, and I would read his account, and the French, the account that Haitians had given so I got a good view and I came to the conclusion that they were no soldiers superior to Dessalines and Toussaint except Napoleon. And I have gone into detail about that
K.R. – It’s a long way from Toussaint to Cipriani and Butler I suppose, but you did write a life of Captain Cipriani before you went in to
CLR – That’s an interesting book, very interesting to me, I had read two lines of Marxism and they consisted “in 1848 Marx and Engels published the communist manifesto” that was all, so that was all I knew, I had read a little about Toussaint L’Ouverture but not much, but I was very much struck by Cipriani, I did not pay too much attention to Butler, Butler came later, I left here in ’32, but somewhere about ’30 it struck me that here was Cipriani saying all that was needed and to mobilise the people and federation and education, and here was I a government servant, I was teaching at the Government Training College, lecturer in English and History, but I had all these progressive ideas but I was doing nothing, I was handicapped by the fact that if I had said anything the Government would have thrown me out, and I had made up my mind to be a writer, so it struck me that I could do something by writing the life of Cipriani, so I went to Cipriani and told him, “I am interested in what you are doing but I am handicapped, I’m a government servant but I would like to write your biography, will you help me?,” he said “certainly,” and he gave me all the material, told me what I wanted to know and handed me a lot of materials and said “there it is” and I have written it and he had looked it over before I left in ’32, so that book had no Marxism in it, and when I look at it now I see many mistakes etc. but by and large it had the spirit that Cipriani had brought, we want to govern ourselves and I went with that
K.R. – There is a feeling now that when Butler got on the scene all kinds of weaknesses in Cipriani’s approach and attitudes began to be apparent
CLR – Now I have seen that and a lot of that has no historical sense, for this reason, undoubtedly Butler brought into the movement a whole lot of fundamental ideas and attitudes which Cipriani did not have, but the man who laid the foundation so that Butler could start something was Cipriani, I remember the days when Cipriani, when there was no Cipriani and I remember a great strike here in 1919, the water men, the waterfront men was striking and I was no more that 18 years of age but I used to talk to them, I was interested, and they used to talk to me and I know today that every single one of those males was a Garveyite, but they didn’t say that, but they were Garveyites, that’s where they lived, Cipriani brought the labour movement here and used to carry on at a rate and he made the city council, where he was mayor, a focus for conflict with the British Colonial Government all that, so later when Butler began to say well we must go on, we must go on from where Cipriani had begun and to blame Cipriani for not doing what Butler did is I think unhistorical, you are entitled to say that, but you mustn’t give the impression that Cipriani made all these mistakes, he did what he had, what was, began (K.R. – what he could do in his time) in his time, now he didn’t follow along with Butler, but that time he was 70 years or thereabouts, but I am not, I don’t have any sympathy for people who recognising what Butler did, condemn Cipriani for not doing it, that is without sense
K.R. – When you were growing up in these early years what sort of impact did the Garvey movement have on Trinidad, did people know about Marcus Garvey and did they hear about the Russian revolution
CLR – No, I remember George Padmore who I used to know as Malcolm Nurse, his father used to talk to my father, his father was a tremendous political mind in Trinidad, Hubert Alfonso Nurse, he was Malcolm Nurse’s father and he used to talk to my father when I was a boy of 7 or 8 and I used to hear him, and something used to drive him, my father used to listen to him with great respect and consideration, but we all looked, at least my father looked upon Nurse as somebody who was in the revolution, he was the first man who said “I am not Anglican, I am not Roman Catholic, I am a Muslim,” a Black man about 98 (K.R. – this was Padmore’s father?) Padmore’s father, that’s where Padmore grew up and he was a man who lived in a room as big as this filled with books and I had never seen that in Trinidad before and I haven’t seen it for years, but he used to talk about George Washington, about Booker T. Washington and Du Bois but I didn’t used to understand, but I remember his son and I used to be friendly, were not we were not to close, not as we became later but he used to do a lot of reading of American writings about Blacks, he continued the tradition that his father had left, I was wrapped up in English literature, European literature, English history, Greek history but I was interested in the black question and I used to read two magazines, one was The Negro World Marcus Garvey’s magazine and the other one was The Crisis by Du Bois and I used to read them to be, be a part of the Black struggle but I never was in it to the extent that, that Padmore was, not that he was in it, but he used to read and was interested but he didn’t want to persuade me into anything, but whenever I talked to him he would always tell me.. (K.R. – but the majority of Trinidadians at the time would not have heard much about Marcus Garvey) they didn’t hear much about Garvey, but Garvey came here in 1929, oh yeah Garvey came and when Garvey landed here a whole lot of people went down to the wharf to see him, but as a personality, his policies were not up to much, but I tell you the things that mattered, I remember travelling by train and I was reading an article in the news – or one of them about Gandhi and I talked to a friend of mine about it and some Indians who were there dressed in their Indian clothes said “Hey Gandhi!” in other words they knew about Gandhi and that was about 1927, 28 and secondly the Ethiopian revolt and Mussolini’s attempt to take over Ethiopia had a great influence among the people here, but that was after I left but I heard that afterwards that the Ethiopian revolt was a great stirring up and I’m glad to say that when I went to England and the upheaval took place in ’37 to ’38, members of the Commission whom the British Government sent, said that the writings of C. L. R. James helped to stir up the people, because I wasn’t only writing about the ordinary people, which meant that I was, but I had sent the life of Captain Cipriani back here, I went there in ’32.
K.R. – That is sub-titled The Case for West Indian Self-government.
CLR – The Case for West Indian Self-government yes, and it was published in England as The Case for West Indian Self-government, an abridgement was published, so both of them and those that circulated a lot and besides that I joined up with Padmore writing about Ethiopia and we didn’t do so much about the Caribbean, we were interested in Africa, but we used to talk about the Caribbean and the writings are lovely, the book, the novel, Minty Alley and A Brighter Caribbean had a tremendous influence on the History of Negro Revolt people said that they wanted some literature to get out of the old one to get into the new, and those books meant a lot to them
K.R. – Did the Russian revolution have much influence on you at that time
CLR - No, I didn’t know anything about it, I used to read the Encyclopaedia Britannica a marvellous edition, and I used to read about Lenin and Trotsky and the Russian revolution but to me it was somewhat abstract
K.R. – But nowadays there is a kind of ignorance in Trinidad if you mention the name C. L. R. James people would say “Oh! that Communist fella"
CLR – They, they are saying that because that’s what they have been taught, when I was here first working with Williams I had already published World Revolution, I had already published The Black Jacobins, my ideas were widely known but people didn’t make a fuss about my being a Communist, it was when I left Williams and he got into trouble, that he began to call everybody Communist, and he didn’t do too much about that with me, but he did his best and encouraged it, but Williams knew everything that I had done, by ’57 I had already written plenty
K.R. – But you were once officially a member of the Communist party
CLR – Never sir! I never was a member of the Communist party, I was a member of the Trotskyist party, we were opposed to the communist and I was in the Trotskyist movement from 1934 to 1951 and then I left it, and have written very fully and completely my reasons for leaving it, all that is in this book
K.R. – Notes on Dialectic
CLR – Yes, and you see the people I deal with it seriously, I don’t deal with it gossiping, and I deal with Hegel, Marx and Lenin and what they understood by Communism
K.R. – So at the moment what are your political affiliations
CLR – I am affiliated to nobody in particular, I have some friends in England, and I have some friends in the United States, there are people in Italy, and we are very closely associated with the ideas that we have, we exchange ideas, they translate some of my stuff into Italian and people published in England, in America and so on, but there is no affiliation in the old sense for this reason I have now come to the conclusion and that is a contribution to the Marxist/Leninist doctrine that today and for some years now we do not need a vanguard party in the sense that Lenin and the others used to put it forward or rather in the way that Lenin was interpreted as putting forward the vanguard party, the vanguard party is not necessary for the development of the workers into Socialism, Marx wrote about the Commune and he said that is it, they used to ask him this dictatorship of the proletariat that you’re talking about where is it, he said there, he wrote about the Commune, he said that is the way the workers will develop, Lenin said the Soviet, The State And Revolution doesn’t mention the party, it deals with the Soviet and Mao Tse-tung wrote, his great contributions he said were two, number one: to defeat Chiang Kai-shek and get the Japanese out of China and the second one was the cultural revolution and the cultural revolution was aimed at the education of the workers and the peasants so as to get rid of the leadership of the movement by the party, so that Marx, Lenin and Mao Tse-tung always had a very critical idea about the party, it was necessary there were times when you had to do it, but that that was absolutely necessary to building the workers into Socialism, no sir, and that’s what, I have led that and nowadays many people believe it
K.R. – But what do you think then about Caribbean politics and Caribbean societies at the present time in relation to the parties?
CLR – I am saying that the vanguard party, the party with which you cannot, so people used to say, the working class cannot be led into Socialism unless there is such a party, I say that is not Marxism, and if, Lenin never had that view, he said that that party is necessary in Russia today owing to the backwardness of Russia but The State And Revolution gives a universal picture for all Marxists and there he didn’t talk about the party at all he said the Soviet, now we in the Caribbean, I find, have to form a party for the reason, I know there are parties not necessary in England, it is not necessary in Holland, it’s not necessary in Italy, my God! there are millions of people highly educated with nearly fifty or a hundred years of practical political experience behind them, so a party isn’t necessary there, but who am I to tell Mugabe who has formed a Marxist/Leninist party in Zimbabwe no, I am not going to do that, but you notice the party was formed a Marxist/Leninist party and I don’t know if I can say this, this might prevent this thing being published (K.R. - it could always be cut out) what kind of party has Dr. Williams formed here, nobody knows, I can give you a better example, the best example is Mr. Hudson Phillips, Mr. Hudson Phillips has claimed that he has formed a party that is in opposition to the party of Dr. Williams, he challenges the party of Dr. Williams, what does that party stand for, nobody knows, the other day some people in the press asked him, “but Mr. Phillips, what does your party represent, what do you represent?,” and I quote, put it in inverted commas, he said “Caribbean Socialists” and then the man asked him, put it in inverted commas, “what does that mean?,” and also put in inverted commas Mr. Phillips said “it doesn’t mean any thing at all,” so that’s where they are. Can we stop for a minute
CLR – When do we have to stop?
K.R. – When we feel that you are tired.
CLR – Not, don’t worry with me, a lot of food is being prepared in there.
K.R. – Alright I think we should go through and then when we stop we will eat and then depart.
K.R. – So if a bunch of young Trinidadians came up to you and said “Mr. James we are very worried about the condition of Trinidad and we have decide to form a political party” what kind of advice would you give them?
CLR – They are entitled to form it, I would tell them, “do you know what are your aims? Do you know what concrete slogans you are going to put forward?” Nobody wrote more about philosophy, nobody wrote more about the economics, and the capitalist beginning their development in Russia, nobody wrote more about the philosophy of the Russian people than Lenin did, but although Lenin did that and educated his party he had three slogans for the revolution, number one: the Democratic Republic, number, instead of –, number two: the eight hour day for the workers and number three: the lands of the peasants. I would ask them “number one, have you worked out a basic philosophy of politics which you are going to put into action? you must have that, and then the slogans that you are going to use those may change but get those first and then go ahead.”
K.R. – But I would have said, if a group of fellows told me they were going to form a party, I think I would be very pessimistic when they started to speak to me and I would say “well, you’re dealing with a society which seems to be, which thinks it is so well off materially that almost everybody is investing in the status quo, (CLR – may I) and you’re dealing with a party which has swept one of its most important issues so firmly under the carpet, that is the racial issue, that is between African and Indians, that you could not form a political party in this country, nobody would allow you, those who want the status quo would not allow you, and those who are investing in African Indian differences will not allow you.”
CLR – I want to tell you that those are not my views and I say so with a lot of confidence because I have written that in the press, I sent it in and I notice a lot of people today are saying, a whole lot of people are saying the county is in a mess, it is drifting, it doesn’t know where it is going and we’re in a state of crisis, so the that PNM has not succeeded in anything it has only resulted after these years in putting the country in a state where everybody is saying what is going to happen to us next, and I don’t think they have driven the racial issue below the carpet, the ULF aimed to get together oil and sugar, and Williams has written in his book – I haven’t read it because I don’t read what he writes anymore, but I have been told that in it he says one of the important things that he has done in Trinidad politics is to keep apart oil and sugar, now to me that is the basis of progress in Trinidad for what oil represents and what sugar represents in the labour movement to get together and form something solid, but I don’t believe that people have driven anything under the carpet, whatever was under the carpet I feel came out in 1970, after 1970 you can’t talk about things under the carpet, my friend, after 1970 whatever was under the carpet has come out, but people what is their problem is they don’t know what steps to take and that is the problem, but they going to have to find out and shall I tell you something else I don’t know if you will want it, Dr. Williams and the PNM, I gather, are in as much confusion as anybody else, they don’t know what to do, Dr. Williams don’t know what, can he come forward again or are people against him, inside the PNM people are telling him “that letter that I wrote to you putting everything in your hands, give it back to me,” they’ve taking him to court, he needs a majority in the house, a commission in order to make Raffiq(?) and the rest of them go out of the house altogether, he has passed a law, but he can’t get that committee, there are PNM people who say no, we are not going to take part in that, that is the state the country is in. Prime Minister Hudson Phillips who the other day made the tremendous pronouncement the country is a tinder box, you remember that and that don’t mean that, tinder boxes don’t take place under the carpet, the essence of a tinder box is that it has come out from under the carpet, you know I think the country today is in a tremendous state of uncertainty, doubt and hesitation as to what is to take place, but it’s difficulty is, it’s uncertain as to what steps to take and that I think is obvious from what is taking place in the rest of the Caribbean, when Bishop and the Jewel movement did something that the Caribbean needed got rid of Gairy and the rest of the Caribbean, Trinidad at the head does not look upon that as a tremendous addition to the understanding of the Caribbean and what people will think about it, that a Caribbean people got rid of him, no they are concerned not that Gerry was got rid of, but with the fact that Bishop mobilised the population against an oppressive government, they are scared stiff themselves against such an action, they
K.R. – But there is a problem there in that many people who approve of Gairy having been pushed out are worried about the recent Russian thrust in the Caribbean and they feel that the Cuban/Russian involvement in the Grenadian revolution might in the end prevent the Grenadian revolution from being a Grenadian revolution, just as the Russian involvement in Cuba might be taking away the Cuban revolution from the Cuban people, so that a lot of the resistance to Bishop or to Castro at the moment might be a fear that some people have about what the Russians are trying to do, so now we have to worry not only about America but about the Russians
CLR – I don’t think that the Russians had anything to do with the fact that Bishop got rid of Gairy, I think that was a Grenadian necessity and a Caribbean necessity, and that was one of the great events in the history of the Caribbean people, that they got rid of him, and what I say about Fidel Castro is this, there are many things about Fidel that I am uncertain of, there are many that I am certain of, but I want to say only two things, we can’t go into Cuba here, number one: Castro led the revolution before the Russians came in, (CLR – yes) the Russians didn’t help him make it and number two: at the present time but for the help of the Cuban army, a whole area in South Africa would be under the control of the white South Africans, now you got to, to tell me plenty against Fidel, don’t stand up there, Fidel didn’t wait for the Russians he went ahead and there are many things I could say positive about the Cuban revolution but I don’t want to go into that.
K.R. – Now I think maybe we can round off this little section of the talk which has been a lot about the leaders by going back to The Black Jacobins and ask you if there was a section of The Black Jacobins that you were to read anywhere would you like to choose it and read it now.
CLR – Do we come to an end here?
K.R. – Just for a moment.
CLR – Only a moment.
K.R. – Yes, we give you a rest for about five minutes or so, maybe have lunch or something and then resume.
CLR – Now there are two sections of The Black Jacobins that I would like to read, one is where Toussaint, one is where Toussaint was afraid that things were taking place in France and the revolution in San Domingo was being threatened by the development of the reaction in France and he wrote a letter to the French government in which he expressed his fears, but they were only fears, and they had sent him a personal present for the work he had been doing and he refers to that, now this is what I want to read, in the new edition, page 196, he says: do they, the planters think that men who have been able to enjoy the blessing of liberty will calmly see it snatched away, they supported their chains only so long as they did not know any condition of life more happy than that of slavery, but today when they have left it, if they have a thousand lives they will sacrifice them all rather than be forced into slavery again, but no, the same hand which has broken our chains will not enslave us anew, France will not revoke her principles, she will not withdraw from us the greatest of her benefits, she will protect us against all our enemies, she will not permit her sublime morality to be perverted, those principles which do her most honour, to be destroyed, her most beautiful achievement to be degraded, but if to re-establish slavery in San Doming this was done, then I declare to you it would be to attempt the impossible, we have known how to face dangers to attain our liberty, we shall know how to brave death to maintain it and then he goes on this citizen’s directives is the morale of the people of San Domingo, these are the principles that they transmit to you by me, my own you know, it is sufficient to renew my hand in yours, the oath that I have made to cease to live before gratitude died in my heart, before I cease to be faithful to France and to my duty, before the god of liberty is profaned and sullied by the liberticides before they can snatch from my hands that sword, those arms which France confided to me for the defence of its rights and those of humanity for the triumph of liberty and equality, you see it deals with the San Domingo situation and then it broadens it out and I want to read a passage from Georges Lefebvre about the Jacobins and the Girondists and the sans-culottes, The Jacobins from page 297, 276 the Jacobins furthermore were authoritarian in outlook, consciously or not they wished to act with the people and for them, but they claimed the right of leadership and when they arrived at the head of affairs they ceased to consult the people, did away with relations, proscribed the hébertistes and the enragés, they can be described as enlightened despots, the sans-culottes on the contrary were extreme democrats, they wanted the direct government of the people by the people, if they demanded a dictatorship against the aristocrats they wished to exercise it themselves and to make their leaders do what they wanted, the sans culottes of Paris in particular I am speaking here, saw very clearly what was required at each stage of the revolution, at least until it reached its highest peak, their difficulty was that they had neither the education, experience nor the resources to organise a modern state if only temporarily, for a balanced account of the way in which the sans-culottes themselves worked out and forced upon an unwilling Robespierre the great policies which saved the revolution see Lefevrier and I go on to say, but that the sans culottes had to force the Jacobins, but in 1980 the Sans Coulotte I think learned to give them a chance to do it, they were not so far away from education and understanding, okay.
K.R. – Well I don’t know if we can eat in about 20 minutes boys, we can eat in 20 minutes.
CLR. – Ask her.