The Struggle for Freedom


The foundations of contemporary Barbados, what the most industrious of the local historians has called the “assault on the oligarchy”, were laid in the years after 1918, and with gathering force in the years after the watershed of the 1937-38 West Indian riots. Its leadership was that of Grantley Adams and his colleagues in the two-¬¨pronged movement of the Barbados Labour Party and the Barbados Workers’ Union. Others came before, of course. There was the work of Negro educators like Rawle Parkinson who gave a new self-respect to the educated coloured Barbadian, at a time when educational reform tended to be the preserve of the Barbadian white emulators of the Arnoldian public school ideology. There was the work of the liberal editors, Valence Gale and Charles Chenery, and of the more radical editors who attached themselves to the developing popu¬¨lar democratic movement, Clement Inniss and, of course, Clennel Wickham. There was even the occasional socialist like Charles Duncan O’Neale, Who brought back to his island home the revolutionary ideas of Keir Hardie and the lndependent Labour Party that he had imbibed in his English stay during the first decade of the century. He went on to form, in 1924, the Democratic League as the immediate precursor of the later movement. Yet all of those, great names as they were, were individuals, except O’Neale, working for the masses rather than with the masses. They fought for single causes rather than for a complete reconstruction of Barbadian life. In different ways, they opposed the oligarchy, but they had no clear idea of what they wanted to replace it with. That their Barbadian historian should tell their story in terms of the old-fashioned “leaders of men” school of history indicates how much they were individualists with a social conscience, but individualists still.