Another 1970 uprising in Trinidad is not on the cards

Another 1970 uprising in Trinidad is not on the cards
Photo : Ramdath Jagessar

My good friend, Jai Parasram, has posted on his Facebook page this question:  "UWI students started the February uprising in 1970, Are we heading their again?"

I must reply.

That uprising was a good thing for Trinidad. But the Black Power boys didn't finish the job and get rid of that fool Eric Williams. The man was ready to go, and had his plane warming up at Piarco Airport to take him into exile. If the Black Power march from Laventille to Caroni had come back with a few thousand Indians then Eric Williams would have known it was over for him and he would have boarded the plane and escaped Trinidad.

Why didn't the march come back to Port of Spain with a truck load of Indians? The Black Power boys were so politically ignorant that they didn't approach the Indian leaders and politicians to lend them some Indians to get rid of Eric Williams and his PNM government. Those would have been Bhadase Maraj, MP for Caroni, Maha Sabha President and President of the All Trinidad sugar union, all of which with many Indian supporters, and the DLP opposition party, which had 12 seats in Parliament and many, many Indian supporters.

Both Bhadase and the DLP were political opponents of Eric Williams, and would have been happy to see him and his PNM gone. It would have been easy for them to tell their supporters in Caroni to join the Black Power march protesting against the PNM government and help dump the PNM.

But for that to happen the Black Power boys would have had to promise them something in return, like a share in the new government, better treatment of sugar workers, more programs for the country areas where most Indians lived, more government jobs for DLP supporters and Maha Sabha Hindus, something, anything.

There is no record of the Black Power leaders approaching Bhadase or the DLP leadership to strike a deal on the march to Caroni and the ultimate aim of getting rid of Eric Williams. Black Power offered nothing to get the big prize of eliminating the PNM enemy, and as usual when you offer nothing for something big, you get nothing.

Bhadase and the DLP leaders were experienced politicians who knew how to make a deal. The Black Power leaders were political novices who had no idea how to handle a very political plan like street demonstrations to bring down a government.

Their stupid idea was to avoid the Indian leaders and appeal directly to the Caroni Indians to join their African- Indian Unity march without telling those Indians what they had to gain from doing so.

Bad strategy, in fact, no strategy at all. It failed.

Caroni Indians welcomed the march as they were advised to do by Bhadase Maraj, but they did not join the march because they were not advised to do so by Bhadase or the DLP leaders. The Black Power march did not even return to Port of Spain that day, but petered out.

The moment was lost.

Eric Williams saw there was no multiracial popular protest against his government, but only a bunch of disaffected young black people who didn't know what they were doing. He cancelled his flight of exile out of Trinidad, and arrested the Black Power leaders soon after with a State of Emergency and so put an end to the Black Power uprising..

 Can we have another uprising today almost 50 years later? Not a chance.

Street protests will be banned and illegal protests will meet the riot squad or army bullets. The unions will not go for a general strike.

Guerilla warfare by the NUFF group was put down hard and bloody in the seventies, and the police/army are well prepared for anything like that.

Throwing out the PNM through elections is not likely when most of the African and mixed race group (59% of the population) remain strong supporters of the PNM.

What realistic options remain for those wanting to protest the PNM rule and get rid of the PNM in government?

There are none, except to grin and bear it.

You may thank the Black Power boys for missing the opportunity of a lifetime in 1970. Yes they were young and angry and stupid, and that's not too bad if you are a teenager still living in your parents' home. But it was tragic when they were leading tens of thousands of young people on a protest road to nowhere.

 The Black Power leaders and followers paid the price for their errors of 1970, and the rest of the country paid the price too. It would be lunacy to try to replay the 1970 uprising again.

Prime Minister Rowley, the bedraggled successor of Eric Williams, doesn't need to have a plane warming up at Piarco Airport.