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posted 20 Jun 2012, 20:23 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 21 Jun 2012, 08:08 ]

If memory serves me right and memory is a notoriously unreliable source, I first met Kelvin Seaton in October 1975. It was at OWTU Palms Club on Pointe-A-Pierre Road at a week-long OWTU leadership seminar which involved people like Professor George Sammy, Maurice Bishop, Dr. James Millette, Dr. Roy Thomas, Richard Jacobs, Winston Murray and others.

After years of struggle the OWTU had finally become the recognised majority union for the workers of Trinidad Cement Ltd and Kelvin and Angus Lalsingh were the two representatives of the TCL branch at what, I surmised, was their first training session in the OWTU. Angus was to become the branch president and Kelvin the branch secretary. Kelvin was certainly no Robin to Angus’ Batman, but they certainly did make a dynamic duo.

I got to know Kelvin a lot better as he carried out his union duties and took part in a residential seminar at what is now CLR James Centre just a few metres up the road from Paramount Building. What struck me about Kelvin was firstly his fierce commitment to the union and the struggle of the working class and secondly his iron discipline, efficiency and professional approach to the tasks at hand.

In describing individuals who produced slipshod work or failed to observe punctuality or displayed lack of seriousness in their work, Kelvin would describe them as “amateurs” a word which he pronounced with great

scorn and derision. Kelvin did not suffer fools gladly!

Kelvin’s already developed sense of discipline was further entrenched as his practice as a union officer, a member of NAMOTI and an activist in the Committee for Labour Solidarity deepened. Due to his NAMOTI study sessions Kelvin became obsessed with Mao Ze Dong’s article Combat Liberalism; maybe because it fitted right in with his already developed perspective on life and his serious, iron-willed approach to organisational life.

With the re-establishment of the OWTU Education Department in the mid seventies, the concept of the branch bulletin emerged. This was written and produced by the branch with editorial, proof reading and policy assistance from the department. I was, more or less, responsible for that aspect of the education work.
Kelvin was on board from the get go. He was, in the main, responsible for the TCL branch bulletin CONCRETE REALITY. I don’t remember who came up with the name, but it certainly is reflective of Kelvin’s personality. CONCRETE REALITY has survived for thirty five years.

In the late seventies I used to go down to Cedros with the union’s Land Rover to help organise the workers on Singh’s Estates who were under real pressure at the time…violence was never far away. Kelvin would go with me and we would pick up Gentle Gibson aka G in Gonzales on our way to Cedros. G is Carlton Gibson’s big brother. Carlton had not yet come from Grenada, but that is another story. Those days were some of the most exhilarating days I have experienced as a trade unionist.

G and Kelvin were the perfect comrades for the mission we were on. We used to sleep in the Land Rover some nights and as perverse as it may sound if there was a wake in any of the villages we would be glad because we could keep warm, drink some coffee or other stimulating drink and eat something.

G had a way with people: they would warm to him easily and take him into their confidence. Kelvin would always keep us focused on the task at hand and we would discuss and review our situation on an ongoing basis. It really is a joy to develop strategy and tactics with comrades with whom you share a common perspective and with whom there is no need to worry too much about personal sensitivities and thin skins.

I remember the 1982 T&TEC strike. The workers had taken action in defiance of the law which bans them from striking. The union was under pressure; the security forces were on the move, union officers like Mings and Rees and Alva Allen were being arrested; there was talk of a state of emergency. Pee Gee Weekes had given certain instructions about defence of the union’s property. A squad of militants including Kelvin, Man Man Edward, Wayne Stephen and Albert Louison and others was organised to do what was necessary. They would bunk at Lower Hillside when they had to sleep by day and some of them, including Kelvin, would do security duty at Paramount Building during the night.

In these situations Kelvin was at his best. He would ensure that instructions were carried out to the letter and he made exceptions for no one. The building was supposed to be off limits to everyone, except Kelvin and his crew after a certain hour.

One night a senior union officer, who has since developed a national profile, and shall remain un-named, drove up the hill into the car park at the back of Paramount Building, with a companion, a couple minutes before the area was to be locked down.

Kelvin approached the vehicle and told the senior union official that he should not be there; that he knew he should not be there and that he had to leave. The unnamed union officer began to protest. Kelvin upbraided him for his casual approach to carrying out his responsibility and ordered him off the compound. I don’t think Kelvin ever regained trust and confidence in that union officer.

Kelvin was totally involved in the 1977 Fortieth Anniversary celebrations of the OWTU. He was involved in organising sporting and cultural activity, All Fours etc. and you knew once Kelvin was on a committee you could close your eyes and know that things would run like clockwork.

Kelvin was one of the more committed and dedicated activists of the Committee for Labour Solidarity. He participated fully in every activity whether it was house to house blitzes or fund raising activities or selling Hold The Fort, the organisation’s newspaper. Unlike some, he understood fully the importance of the newspaper as an organising tool and consistently sold the most newspapers and just as impor
tant made sure that all monies were accounted for and deposited on time. 

This was the Kelvin Seaton I knew: a working class fighter, full of proletarian spirit, a revolutionary who understood the importance of organisational work and collective activity. Comrade Kelvin Seaton was the salt of the earth. He worked consistently toward the vision of building a new society free from exploitation and degradation.

When the internal contradictions in NAMOTI exploded, destroying the Committee for Labour Solidarity and smearing an ugly stain right across the mass movement it affected Kelvin deeply; but instead of despairing he shifted his focus to community work and continued to make his contribution to the thankless task of making a better world.

Rest easy working class warrior! A new generation is preparing itself to continue the struggle to liberate humanity. Your work will not be in vain. Your commitment, dedication and clarity of vision stand as a beacon to all those charged with the responsibility of completing your vision. To paraphrase the poet: Death does not find us thinking that you die.