Remembering Crawford

Saturday August 29th marked the 110th anniversary of the birth of Wynter Algernon Crawford. As happened ten years ago on the occasion of the centenary of his birth, there has been nary a whimper with respect to commemoration of this monumental event. It is to our collective shame and embarrassment that an entire generation or two of Barbadians are completely unaware both of this man’s name and his indelible contribution to modern Barbados.

Crawford was fundamentally a radical ideologue, utterly committed to the aggrandizement of the downtrodden masses, equipped with what legendary writer George Lamming called “the most alert and incisive political imagination” in those early days of the Barbadian democracy. This political imagination led him to the formulation of dozens of avant-grade social and economic policies. Many years before they were introduced, Crawford lobbied for a national health and unemployment scheme, subsidized low-income housing, compulsory education, free textbooks as well as hot lunches for students. Economically, Crawford can also be credited with facilitating the establishment of the Hilton Hotel here as well as being one of the earliest and most enduring proponents of ‘industrialization by invitation’.

On a political level, Crawford fundamentally disagreed with the gradualist approach taken by Sir Grantley Adams in obtaining the change, which both men ultimately desired. This perhaps best explains Crawford’s premature departure from public life and his near-anonymity today. His practice of the art of politics, though always guided by the right ends, may not always have selected the best or most effective means to those ends. 

Firstly, in a country in which nearly every aspect of life was based on or bound up in three centuries of colonialism, the rapid pace of change which Crawford sought was simply not possible. Disentangling the existing oligarchical structure would be a slow process, requiring ironically a short-term entente with the ruling class. Indeed, when one’s head is in the shark’s mouth, one must extricate oneself slowly while mollifying the shark. After your head is out and you’re safe, then you no longer need to appease the ‘shark’. Sir Grantley understood this better than most and therefore his model for political leadership was following his principles and achieving his ends, which is only possible through the use of pragmatic means. Adams faced much opposition in this approach, such as the blistering attacks which Crawford launched after the decision of Adams to enter into coalition with the Conservatives in 1944. However, Crawford himself later recognized the importance of political pragmatism, when he retrospectively lamented his decision not to enter into coalition with the same Conservatives after the 1946 election, writing in his memoirs that it was the “biggest error of my entire political life”. Though he never conceded that Sir Grantley was right on that point, it was a tacit admission that the persons whom you think to be your enemies in your struggle can be useful tools.

Secondly, Mr Crawford may also have overestimated the progressiveness of his countrymen. Ordinary Barbadians in his day, and perhaps to an extent still today, were among the most conservative of our Caribbean family, and indeed not nearly as anti-British as our neighbors or the local intelligentsia. This mistake has been so tragically oft-repeated by radical politicians since Crawford. In our post-Independence history, pan-Africanists have not fared particularly well, for example. History records the travails of Drs. Caddle and Blackman. The lesson then perhaps is for individuals of like mind in the present and yet to come, to better attempt to bring ordinary people along with them, requiring a special tailoring of message and approach, so that those past mistakes may not be repeated. 

Finally, while Crawford was well-placed to be Premier, the foregoing as well as the lack of a party structure felled that and the full achievement of his vision for Barbados. His Congress Party, eventually collapsing, never enjoyed the strong structure that the BLP had created or the DLP would create, making those latter two not merely political parties, but institutions, which are inevitably longer-lasting. This lack of structure carried over to the deficient attempts in union organizing, which in those early days provided a strong backbone for parties. 

Ultimately, Crawford’s life provides fascinating and prescient lessons for all. It is to his credit that he committed it to writing and his memoirs, I Speak for the People, is compulsory reading. As Crawford eventually scorned both parties it is little wonder that little tribute to him remains, beyond a roundabout and the CHB awarded by Tom Adams. Government must do better than this. It could start with the possible renaming of either of the buildings which house the NHC or the School Meals Department, a posthumous knighthood or perhaps even a deserved addition to the pantheon of National Heroes. 

Indeed, our entire political history, not just Mr Crawford, must be taught to our nation’s children. Too much of what we take for granted today were hard-fought for by political parties and individuals like Messrs. Adams, Cummins, Cox, Mapp, Springer, Blackman, Crawford, Wickham and many others in the early progressive movement. If more of us appreciated the hard graft of building this nation, maybe, just maybe, we would be more hesitant to tear it down.

30 thoughts on “Remembering Crawford

  1. @ Mr. Kothdiwala
    “ History records the travails of Drs. Caddle and Blackman.”

    And now we witness and record the travails of Comrade Trevor Prescod.

  2. @ KK
    Welcome back !
    This is very interesting piece on one of the early agitators for the improvement of the conditions of the Working Class. We tend on this blog to be preoccupied by the contributions of the DLP and the BLP to the development of our society,polity and economy. Very often it helps to look back and analyse how we reached here and who were the main movers and shakers. Wynter Crawford was one of them.

  3. @ Kothdiwala
    Wynter Algernon Crawford didn’t allowed his impairment to derail his determination for triumph. His motivator was the people. Undisputedly one of the giants of the movement for political and social enfranchisement. A true patriot.

  4. The Root of All Evil

    “Crawford lobbied for a national health and unemployment scheme, subsidized low-income housing, compulsory education, free textbooks as well as hot lunches for students.”

    Thanks for the report. It reveals that the catastrophic socialist mentality on the island is older than the chief socialist Barrow.

    “national scheme”: NIS became the ATM for failed plantations like Four Seasons and Apes Hill. Nothing else than a redistribution from the impoverished black masses to white businessmen. That statement is no racism. It is based on facts not conspiracy theories.

    “subsidized low-income housing”: just another financial disaster. Whenever I drive to the airport I start to scream when passing Coverley Plantation.

    “hot lunches for students”: it is precisely this mentality of the deep welfare state that has been responsible for the fact that we have had no economic growth for the last 12 years.

  5. I just looked at the latest pic of the Red Bishop. He seems to wear a Rolex Submariner steel-gold-blue valued 13,400 BBD + duties + VAT.

    Can anybody confirm that or is it just a replica?

  6. My grandfather told me all about Wynter Crawford many, many years ago. He was indeed the ideas man. Radical thinkers are necessary to move the masses forward but so are the pragmatists who slow things down. The hand must indeed be eased out of the lion’s mouth if one wishes to avoid being mauled.

    Patience in these matters is a virtue.

    The masses have made more strides forward than we admit. The problem is that we have rested on our laurels and stopped pushing forward before the process is complete. We have taken forward motion for granted, assuming it would continue unpropelled. In the meantime those whom we have elevated to leadership of the masses have forgotten their roots and now join the opposing forces putting us in reverse.

    This is not the fault of Wynter Crawford. He did his job well. The ideas person is often not the best implementing person. Everybody has his or her strengths. Teamwork is the best chance for success. It is a pity we don’t seem to realise that.

    Somewhere along the way we stopped thinking. We celebrated victory before the war was won and took our ‘entitlements’ for granted.

    In the meantime the bandits moved in stealthily and robbed us.

    Still, we are not yet back at square one. There is still time to push back. Are we as committed as our foreparents? Do we understand what must be done?

    I don’t think so.

  7. @David, in simple Bajan… ‘fah trute,wha mek you say dat: “The reference by Khaleel to the lack of structure around Crawford’s party apparatus is food for thought for fledgling third parties.

    Some 100 years since with all the political organizational fits and starts here and elsewhere and you perceive that Mr Crawdford’s missteps provides “food for thought” for third parties… awright den!

    The young firebrand Kothdiwala offers good prose on a man many older heads consider a Bajan “hero’ and for all practical purposes that he was… but his political stumbles are but fledgling examples in any ‘how to manual’ in modern political science operations…. there are more recent local and regional examples which offer lots more food for thought to any aspiring third party leader!

    @Donna and All, don’t we overplay this narrative that In the meantime those whom we have elevated to leadership of the masses have forgotten their roots and now join the opposing forces putting us in reverse.”

    Does forgotten mean that they have suppressed the memories due to some pain caused by the searing reflections; does forget mean that they have done as Orwell depicted in his ‘Animal Farm’; does it mean they merely used the elective process as a means to an end; or does it mean that we the electorate will always accept any political structure as long as we can eat, drink, develop our goals and make merry with a loved one or two!

    The references to leaders putting WE THE PEOPLE in reverse – after an initial period of very progressive actions – as compared to OUR apathy and acceptance (kicking and screaming often, admittedly) simply does NOT gel with the evidence of politics as recorded…. let me rephrase that slightly: does NOT gel in MOST cases with the evidence.

    To proceed further with any references to Cuba or Jamaica or the USSR and then in the US or UK would get me blamed as prolix and pedantic …so here my screed ends!

  8. @ Donna at 7 :44 AM

    Your approach will bear fruit. Many of us are not trying hard enough t o understand what we need to do. And fewer yet are committed. We should study what our fore parents did, why they did it, and how they did it. We tend to concentrate too much on the ‘ what”. Our tasks and our challenges are not the same but their methodology still stands firm. No copy catting. No unfair comparisons. We need to play the hand we are dealt. It is as unique as the earth is unique.

  9. “For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
    For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
    For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
    For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
    For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
    And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”
    Benjamin Franklin

    Every attempt has been made and in most cases have succeeded in destroying all the progressive thinkers in the society. Many of this blog either don’t know or pretend they don’t know, that Grantley Adams, and Errol Barrow, as much as their contributions are noted, aligned with the monied whites and politically, socially and economically destroyed the progressive thinkers , who were gallantly trying to save the poor block people from the current social and political decline.
    No amount of crocodile tears for Caddle, Crawford, and others can obliterate this fact.
    Look at the treatment that Prescod is getting. He knows he has found himself caught in the almost inescapable Claws if a regime that is now totally beholding to the same white monied class that Grantley Adams and Barrow were beholding to and thereby had to eliminate and destroy Crawford and Caddle.

  10. @ William

    I was once in the company of a Bajan lawyer (he is a pass for white, but creole) and a politician, when the lawyer asked the politician how much money he needed. The politician said whatever you can afford.
    The lawyer told him to come to his office the following day. I got the impression then it was not his money he was sharing out, but money on behalf of the white business class.
    The way round this is to introduce legislation limiting what an individual can contribute to a political party of campaign, and ban corporations from making any political donations.

  11. @ Hal Austin at 9 :33 AM

    Do you really think that your proposal would stop contributions to political campaigns? Is it not more productive for you and others with these concerns to concentrate on voter education ,civics in schools, and ethics? Is it really that huge a problem? If the politicians are corrupt do you not think that is where the concentration of effort is required?

  12. @ Hal
    We just can’t ignore the attempts to rewrite history. You and I know fully well that Mark Maloney and others are just the new KR Huntes. Same old game different players.
    One is forced to laugh so you would it cry about all these gains made and yet 95% of the poverty in our country is in the same demographic where it was sixty years ago. And the county is run by the same two political parties.

  13. @ Hal Austin September 7, 2020 9:53 AM

    The island belongs to the international investors and the big local business people, whether white, black, yellow or red. By the way, this is the way it is in all capitalist countries.

  14. @ Vincent

    In a properly working system the law will take its course. You only have to jail one person to stop it. Educating the public and outlawing bad behaviour are not an either or.


    It is part of the system to keep the people in ignorance.The great Tom Adams played pimp to Reagan and Colin Powell. Even Margaret Thatcher and the Queen were angry that the Yanks invaded Grenada without informing them.
    I like Grenada and visit as often as I could, even if they try to rip you off.

  15. @ Hal Austin.
    There are many of us who prefer to expend time,money and effort on strategies and tactics that have a high probability of achieving outcomes. Your legalistic approach lost traction even in the most developed countries. It has failed miserably here. We cannot even get the legislation through Parliament. I am a pragmatist. I think I know what works and what will not.

  16. I must confess, DPD, that I honestly don’t have one clue what you are saying here. Your prose still challenges me the way no other prose has ever done.

  17. TheOGazerts September 7, 2020 12:34 PM

    “If I called two surnames, do they mean anything to you…
    Watson, Archer. Yes/ No“


  18. @ Hal Austin

    Not at all. I need to have the infrastructure on which it is based repaired,and maintained. I want to see competent persons appointed to positions based on their intellectual capacity and relevant experience.

  19. @ Vincent

    The criminal justice system is not any infrastructure. It is competence and integrity. We appoint people because of competence, not intellectual capacity. If we want that we would go to some university.

  20. @ Hal Austin

    When last have you read judicial decisions. It calls for a certain level of intellectual ability. Do you not understand why judgements take a long time to be issued in this country?

  21. @ Hal Austin
    Please review the term infrastructure. A society is based on a justice infrastructure. It enforces social contracts. All citizens must have confidence in it.

  22. @ Vincent

    We do not look to our judges to be intellectuals, we look to legal theorists for that. We want judges to be competent in the law (not intellectual) and be men and women of integrity.
    Justice can be carried out in a barn. It is the decision that is justice, not the robes and the pomposity. If that were so Barbados will come tops.
    As to court decisions, I read them every week still. But then again I live in an environment in which serious debate about criminal law and constitutionality are important. Not fluffing about on a blog. Criminal law is important to Black Britons because we are the main victims of unfair court decisions and bad policing.

  23. @ Hall Austin
    I think we are operating in two different planes. We seem to have completely different meanings for words. Let us agree to disagree.

  24. @ Koochie Koo

    A surprisingly good article that came from your finger tips

    It was an appreciation for the Crawfords and others of his ilk who sought different pathways of national development and did so solely for the enfranchisement of the people.

    Which puts you and your own championship and support of the Regime of the Mugabe Mottley woman at major variance.

    In one breath you speak of Crawford’s commitment to the upliftment of the Bajan people BUT IN YOUR NEXT BREATH you big up Mugabe Mottley!

    I like your strategy majorly in that you inserted yourself into the mind(s) of the blogmaster as a BLP promoter, and into the minds of the readers, as an educated young man and potential leader.

    But now there is a mystery which de ole man, now ascended to my role as Piece the Prophet, is concerned about.

    This “war or principles” that is being fought on your digital submission AND IS CLEARLY EVIDENT IN YOUR SUBMISSIONS HERE, makes one wonder which game you are playing

    I realise that it is one of verbal appeasement.

    You are chosing your topics so that they keep people lulled into the mindset that you are concerned about growth

    Though you are still a Mugabe massager of nether organs

    Well done

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