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posted 5 Jun 2013, 18:50 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 5 Jun 2013, 19:13 ]







Notice of Kirklon Paul’s death reached me through a story written by his brother Cecil and sent via e-mail recently. I write to express my sincerest condolences to his relatives and friends on his passing. 

We made each other’s acquaintance one mid-day at a cross street along Bournes Road, St. James, Port of Spain in the 1970’s. Our chance encounter would have taken place sometime after the Black Power social upheavals of the 1970’s, and a short time before his detention and incarceration with Andy Thomas for the murder of PC Sankar. 

At that time I believed he was barely 18 years old, and fresh out of high school. He revealed that he was an activist for the National Organization of Revolutionary Students (NORS). Our discussions were about the merits of different methods for social change.  
My recollection was that Kirklon Paul was feeling his way to a path for a form of revolutionary change in which the dramatic exploits of a small group would provoke a general uprising by civil society and so transform this vanguard into a mass movement. I did not see what in that method would ignite mass action, nor that it was practical or even possible. I argued against his view and we parted ways after our short discussion. 

Hindsight they say is always 20-20. But looking back on the path to social change that a generation a little younger than myself took I can see more clearly that a crucial missing resource was sure footed, competent and experienced mentorship in all the arts and science of change. 

At 18 years old, from a high school agenda that barely prepared a student for living it would have been well nigh impossible for individuals to grasp and master the full range of resources and considerations that effective movement building required. Passion and energy however bountiful were not enough. 

With 3 to 4 decades removed from the 1970’s, I can see more clearly, with considerable detailed reflection and examination some of the huge limitations that the several jockeying parts that made up an heterogeneous movement for social change. Each part of what was an entire flux of organizations claimed legitimacy based on some superior distinction that differentiated it from the others. 
Some were conventional that is to say for electoral politics and condemned with the old order; some were unconventional and advocated a new politics and even a Gandhian strategy; some prided themselves on being genuinely grass roots; some were unconventional and urged a military solution. Still others characterized their method as “playing for change.” 
Bukka Rennie
Joe Young
George Weekes
I refer to the following list of groupings: New Beginning, led by Franklin Harvey, Bukka Rennie and others; NJAC and its precursor PIVOT, NORS;, militant labour, led by Joe Young, Clive Nunez and TIWU with OWTU led by George Weekes and Winston Lennard; Young Power led by Michael Als, Tapia House Group, United National Independence
Party led by Dr. James
James Millette
Millette and George Danny; NUFF and the maverick unit known as the Union of Revolutionary Organizations (URO) led by Winston Suite, Ramdath Jagessar and others.  

In association, often uncomfortable for the new leaders were broken- fragments from the old political order such as ACDC led by ANR Robinson. Later we had the prospect of the United People’s Front that had its potential stripped, when the labour representatives in that loose conglomeration declared for a labour party or a party representing lab or, known as the United Labour Front (ULF) on the verge of the 1976 elections. 

Whatever their practice, most of these groups and leaders shared a desire for change from below in contra-distinction to change from above. There was also a desire to sustain the Workers and Farmers Party strategy of 1966 to unite ‘oil and sugar’ as it were. 

In those 40 years since 1970 our politics is arguably in a worse state despite the vast input of time, manpower and energy dedicated to change by the generations that came to adulthood on the thresholds of the 1970 upheavals and between then and 1976.  

In terms of both the organics and the mechanics of change we were largely unlettered and untrained and must inevitably have had no choice but to feel for our way. That way, for most of us, led back to the conventions of electoral politics.  

Many were naïve about how we define a genuinely radical departure or how to judge the limitations of the cold war ideologies or evaluate the risks of irrelevance of importing simple revolutionary slogans from other countries’ experiences. Most certainly we had a limited appreciation of the role of scientific investigation and science driven change, as both input and output. This limitation still exists in large part. 

In the light of what seems to be severe limitations it is small wonder that we did not make more mistakes than those we did. To prevent succeeding generations from similar errors we have a rich experience to mine for wisdom and instruction. Distilling that experience is a vital social, political and civic need. 

Getting that job done is perhaps one way to honour the memory of persons like Kirklon Paul, all those who have since died after decades of noble endeavours, and the innocent lives of persons like PC Sankar who were protecting civic space so that the competition for political power could take place safely.