Our Readers' Opinions
November 22, 2016
A must read: Cecil ‘Blazer’ Williams’ ‘A Stirring of Radicals’

Editor: On August 22, 2012, the United States of America Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) approved for release a SECRET document on Black Radicalism in the Caribbean. This report had been prepared in response to the Caribbean Black Power conference held in Bermuda in July 1969. The CIA report, inter alia, examined the influence of Guyana’s Cheddi Jagan, Robert Hill of Jamaica (later Prof of History) and George Weekes of Trinidad among others.{{more}} In relation to St Vincent and the Grenadines, the report stated: “A potentially very influential group in St Vincent is the Education Forum of the People, formerly the Bridge Boys. Its leader, Kerwin Morris, is considered the leader of the black power movement on the island. Membership of the Forum reportedly is approximately 200 and consists largely of civil servants; virtually all of the leaders, including Morris, are teachers. The group has considerable influence because most of the educated young people of St Vincent belong to it. They provide a potentially decisive political force because popular support is more or less evenly divided between the ruling Labor (sic) Party and the opposition Peoples Political Party.”

The rise of radicalism locally occurred during the period of the Labour Party regime of 1967 to 1972. It was a period marked by the decline of the Joshuas and political unionism [namely the Federated Industrial and Agricultural Workers Union (FIAWU)] and the rise of the Labour Party and an independent Commercial and Technical Allied Workers union (CTAWU). Between 1968 and 1979, radicalism flourished. In 1974, the radicals coalesced into The Youlou United Liberation Movement (Yulimo), which then metamorphosed in 1979 into the United Peoples Movement (UPM).

The story of local radical movement is being told by Cecil “Blazer” Williams in his new book – “A Stirring of Radicals”. This novel offers a detailed analysis of the radical history of St Vincent and the Grenadines and the Caribbean region in the 1960s and 1970s with its connection to the wider world. This novel, which is humorous at times, is in the same tradition of excellence blazed by GCH Thomas for this multi-island state and hence is perhaps the most significant literary piece of post-colonial writing for nearly five decades. The author provides insights, though fictional, into the main personalities that the forged the radical movement. In essence, the work is autobiographical, since the author was integrally involved in the radical movement and steered the New Artiste Movement (NAM), the cultural arm of the radical movement. This is a must read if you are interested in politics, trade unionism, popular culture or international relations. This work is a good example of why many historians insist fiction can be history: that ‘fiction is the repressed other of historical discourse.’

Cleve McD Scott, PhD

Historian and cultural critic