"Tim" Hector [1942-2002]
January 29th. 2003
Permission of Jamaica Observer, Photographer Colin James
Antiguan politician, educator, culturalist, journalist, historian and cricketeer Leonard "Tim" Hector was a close personal friend of former Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. Hector, who would have been 60 years old on 24 November, died on 12 November from a long struggle with heart disease.
Our focus shall be on Hector's activities relating to Grenada.
Hector was the editor-publisher of the bi-weekly newspaper 'The Outlet' and updated his Internet column 'Fan the Flames' on a regular basis. He was a Caribbean integrationist, a Pan-Africanist, a fighter for freedom of the press, Opposition Leader, a challenger of corruption, a stalwart supporter of West Indies cricket. He was known as a strong challenger of ideas without spewing hatred and a man who bore the consequences of his actions [jailed 11 times; his publication sued at least 5 times].
According to Dr. David Hinds in a memorial column: "Though a Marxist-socialist, he was not keen on the Moscow-Leninist approach. He preferred the Jamesian [CLR James] approach of popular participation and organization . . ."
In 1965, Hector and others 'set about to work for the unification of progressive political forces which would carry out the new perspectives for a new and united Caribbean, transcending the language barriers in which the Caribbean had been colonially cocooned,' according to a "Fan the Flames' column of 11 December 1988. A Caribbean Service Bureau, with Hector as chairman, was formed.
In that same column, Hector wrote:
We established extensive contacts throughout the Caribbean. Suffice it here to say that contacts were made with Maurice Bishop then in England, George Odlum now Foreign Minister of St. Lucia, Dr. Walter Rodney in England and Tanzania, and through Cuba, with many progressive activists and thinkers in the independence movement in Puerto Rico and with Latin American countries. Later, on my return to Antigua & Barbuda, these contact were extended to the liberation movements in Southern Africa, and Africa in general. Black independent organisations in the USA joined us. But in no time isms and schisms, particularly Maoism began to rear us apart.
During the Rat Island Black Power Conference in St. Lucia of the 1970s, Hector was taken off a LIAT and arrested by gendarmes in Martinique 'on the instruction of the V.C. Bird government in Antigua,' according to that same December 1988 column. In his column of 23 April 1999, Hector says that he 'spent the night in a dingy rooming house in Martinique, without sleeping a wink, because I wanted to be awake when the Martinican gendarmes came to dispose of me, and hopefully return me to Antigua in one piece. So, I read the only book there was to read, the Bible."
African Liberation Day was held annually in Grenada. Its start began in Antigua and Barbuda in 1972, led by Hector's Antigua-Caribbean Liberation Movement (ACLM). Hector wrote about it in his 8 March 2000 Fan the Flames column:
It was Owusu Sadaukai [Dr. Howard Fuller] as an African-American leader, in the wake of the decline of the Black Civil Rights movement in the United States, who with ACLM [Antigua-Caribbean Liberation Movement] leader, Tim Hector, in Antigua conceived the idea of African Liberation Day, to be observed on the last Saturday in May, when all Africans and partisans of liberation were asked to demonstrate, in support of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and Southern Africa in particular - the liberation struggles in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, and for independence 'in each and every' remaining colony be it in occupied Palestine, or the POLISARIO in Morocco.
In his 30 June 2000 Fan the Flames column, Hector writes:
" . . . the Caribbean delegation was banned from the sixth and last Pan African Congress held in 1974, and CLR James, Walter Rodney and all of us from the region were excluded by African and Caribbean State fiat. External forces were combining with internal powers to nullify our efforts. CLR who had headed the Sixth Pan African Congress organising committee, resigned in protest over the exclusion of the Caribbean delegation. The point was, the International Black movement was being divided, despite our best efforts. Imperialism saw to that."
Regarding a Pan-Caribbean Movement, Hector's column of 8 March 2002, revealed the struggles:
ACLM along with OWTU in Trinidad & Tobago, itself embattled, did everything to launch a Pan-Caribbean Progressive Movement. U.S. President Reagan retaliated with the Caribbean Union of right-wing Caribbean governments. Oddly it was Maurice Bishop and Bernard Coard, backed by what passed as ideologues in the Soviet Union, who were to put a major shift in a Pan-Caribbean organisation - the Soviet Union had decreed 'that the correlation of forces' in the world made a Pan Caribbean organisation of progressive forces, 'inopportune at that time.' Though Maurice Bishop remained dedicated to the idea of One Caribbean, the blandishments of the Soviet Union and the gobbledgook spoken by Coard 'as the Grenada scientist' ruined the effort to create a Pan-Caribbean movement in 1980-81.
The writer Manning Marable interviewed Tim Hector 20-22 September 1984 and wrote this in his book "African & Caribbean Politics: From Kwame Nkrumah to Maurice Bishop":
In November 1982 [Tim] Hector confronted his old friend [Bishop] with his own reservations about the NJM, and the discussion degenerated into a shouting match.
'We must have a steeled, ideologically-advanced vanguard party, not a mass-based party,' Bishop argued.Given the omnipresent 'threat of [US] militarism, unity was necessary among leaders of the NJM.' Hector replied tartly and accurately, 'Your 'vanguard' isn't s --! It's ideologically confused, and despised by the masses.'Bishop broke off the debate, arguing perhaps to convince himself. 'Our revolution is not going to get bogged down in any ism or schism. The people are the driving force of this Revolution.'Hector's long association with Bishop was at an end. 'Bishop was actually much further to the left than Coard or anybody else,' Hector later reflected. 'But a true left is that which learns from and is led by the masses. The greatest failure of Bishop was his assumption that his critic inside the NJM possessed his own morality . . . that disagreements between individuals could be resolved peacefully and constructively.
Hector is survived by his second wife Jennifer. His first wife Arah was 'brutally murdered while working on their farm,' according to writer Rickey Singh. Her loss was a deep and enduring sorrow. Leonard Tim Hector was given an Antiguan State funeral with flags at half-mast.
Hector may have wanted the values of a simple cricket game to mark his life where cricket 'save[d] me from malice toward any, in pursuit of the right.'He wrote this in his 9 February 2002 'Fan the Flames' column:
"Cricket after all, involves respect for opponents, regard for team mates, the highest respect for the law and the human agency of the law, umpires. Above all, it encourages respect for the game's long held universal values, at a time when all values are under siege, in the neo-liberal pursuit of greed under variouis guises."
In Paul Buble's tribute, he wrote that Antiguan writer Jamaica Kincaid, who currently lives in the State of Vermont in the United States, threatened "to return to Antigua for life if Hector ever became Prime Minister."
Dr. David Hinds paid tribute to Hector by writing that the 'words of one of Tim's favorite poets, Martin Carter, sums up my farewell to a warrior, a Caribbean warrior:'
Now from the mourning vanguard of moving on dear comrade
I salute you and I say Death will not find us thinking that we die.
Grandeur of his mind and his intellectual production lives on
By Eusi Kwayana - Posted November 20th, 2002
Tiim Hector's untimely passing is the most undesired event of a decade of so many.With our typical human shortsightedness, we did not consider it an option. But it was not him imposing physical presence that so fascinated and delighted his political comrades, siblings and coworkers, friends and foes, juniors and seniors, but the grandeur of his mind and the range of his intellectual production and output.
These enduring gifts are with us still and will last as long as we have the culture to preserve them.
From a distance of time and space I have watched what I could sense of him as he and his coworkers weathered the storm of petulant and clannish repression from the Bird dynasty, whatever its present attitude or posture. His ready rebounding from those assaults was no surprise. But I did not know to what extent he ever recovered from the tragiic loss of his first mate, Sister Arah, Hector. Since then he has sounded like part of himself; liike an athlete winning, but conscious even then of failing powers, as though he could not forgive himself for not having the prescience to protect Arah. It is how many of us felt too at the loss of Walter Rodney.
I do noi know the exact shape of the political landscape in Antigua Babuda. I remember meeting the nucleus of the ACLM in St John's about 1968. In offering my condolences on behalf of Tchaiko and our household, and through you to his widow and offspring, while joining with the message of the Working People's Alliance from Guyana, I ask that you consider well the task of remaining the cutting edge of Caribbean social journalism.
Fraternally and respectfully,
Hector: An Example of Tenacity Independence and Patriotism
By David Hinds - Posted November 16th, 2002
During a conversation I had with Eusi Kwayana last Sunday he mentioned that he may have to decline an invitation to write an article on Tim Hector since he has not been in contact with Tim's politics over the last decade. Tim often referred to Eusi as the father of Caribbean Black Power and Eusi in turn thought very highly of Tim. Eusi and I have talked quite often about Tim this past year as I try to update him on the new currents in Caribbean politics. On Sunday we talked a bit about the controversy resulting from Tim's decision to represent the Antiguan government at regional forums. Eusi had not heard Tim's explanation as had tried unsuccessfully to contact him over the last year. Little did we know that that conversation would be our last about Tim Hector while he was alive. On Tuesday morning I got an email from a journalist, Ryan Narine, informing me that Tim had died and requesting that I do a tribute to him for the Caribbean Cricket website.
I first learned about Tim Hector in the mid-1970s through the Caribbean Contact newspaper, which reported on his anti-corruption struggles in Antigua and his fight for press freedom. I was immediately drawn to his fearlessness. Later I began to read his writings in the Outlet newspaper that he founded and edited. Nigel Westmass and I would devour it as soon as it came to the WPA's office and throughout the years Tim's ideas would often be the departure point for our rap sessions.
I knew Tim had been in and out of hospital over the last year through his columns which are linked to my website guyanacaribbeanpolitics.com. Yet his death came as a shock. In his last posted article written from his hospital bed in Cuba he reported that he was optimistic and feeling fine as he awaited his second surgery. I kept looking for his weekly articles, as I was particularly interested in a series he had started on Antigua. But their non-appearance did not signal to me that things might not have turned out as well as he hoped.
I first met Tim Hector in person fifteen years ago at a conference on CLR James and Walter Rodney in New York. I remember his presentation to this day, as I felt intimidated speaking immediately after him. I last saw him in Antigua in 1998 when I interviewed him for the TV program, CaribNation. After the interview we talked informally for another hour as he tried to get me to explain the problems that had just started in Guyana. We talked about Antiguan and Caribbean politics and of course about cricket. He said two things about West Indies cricket that demonstrated his unique perspective on the game.
First, he opined that West Indies cricket was not in crisis; that in effect West Indies cricket could not be in crisis as it was the very essence of our being. Decline yes, but crisis no. I remember thinking that he must be crazy for everyone knew that our cricket was in crisis. But Tim was not "everyone." For him, West Indies cricket was going through a period of adjustment in the same way that the wider Caribbean society was being structurally adjusted. This is where Tim Hector stands apart from other cricket commentators. He was a thinker about the game not only in technical terms, but also in sociological terms. In this regard he continued the tradition pioneered by his mentor CLR James. The sociological work on cricket currently being done by Professor Hilary Beckles is possible because of Tim Hector persistence. Tim did not conceive of our cricket outside of the political, socioeconomic and cultural currents beyond the boundary.
The other comment in that interview that struck me was in relation to Carl Hooper. Tim was a great admirer of Hooper. Unlike others he did not see or describe Hooper as an underachiever, but as an important indicator of Guyana's and the Caribbean's contradiction. He thought that Hooper embodied the contradiction of a Guyana that produced Burnham, Jagan, Kwayana, and Martin Carter of one generation and Rodney, Thomas, and Roopnarine of the next generation, yet could not put it together as a nation. Tim felt that Hooper would come into his own once he sorts out his significance to his society.
Tim Hector comes from a generation of Caribbean thinker-activists who very early turned their backs on the reformist approaches to the region's political-economic development that their predecessors were advancing. He, along with Walter Rodney, Maurice Bishop, Rosie Douglas, Lloyd Best, Clive Thomas, Trevor Munroe, Andaiye, George Beckford, Phyllis Coard, Ralph Gonzales, Bernard Coard, George Odlum and others, sought to advance what they saw as a necessary Caribbean revolution that would move the region towards an authentic independence. Of this group, Tim Hector emerged as one of the most ideologically independent. Though a Marxist-socialist, he was not keen on the Moscow-Leninist approach. He preferred the Janesian approach of popular participation and organization and as the WPA statement observed he came the closest of his generation to living out CLR James' philosophical-political outlook. My generation got in touch with James through Tim's theory and practice.
Like so may left radicals of his generation, Tim Hector did not win elections and so did not hold public office for most of his career. His movement-party, the Antigua Caribbean Liberation Movement (ACLM) participated in elections with no success. Yet Tim Hector towered in Antiguan politics. This was due largely to his public education mostly through the pages of his weekly newspaper, OUTLET, which was perhaps the best leftist newspaper in the post-colonial Caribbean experience. OUTLET dealt with everything Caribbean whether it was cricket, history, politics, art and culture, or gender issues. And the analysis was second to none. Tim's own column, Fan the Flame, was distinctive for its popular orientation yet rigorous analysis and independence of thought.
But it was Tim's crusade against corruption in Antigua and his struggle for an alternative to the neo-colonial structural adjustment project that he will be best remembered for. He saw corruption as an enemy of development and went after it with a vengeance. For this he was harassed and jailed many times, but he continued to slug away for the cause of the downtrodden even after the decline of the Caribbean left. He never abandoned socialism for his socialism was not a product of a particular experience in a given set of states.
At the time of his death, Tim Hector was in the process of reassessing his politics. He had "retired" from what he called adversarial politics. He advocated power sharing as a means of harnessing the energies and talents of the working people. This led him to controversially represent the Antiguan government at regional and international forums. Some of his admirers felt betrayed and charged him with sleeping with the enemy, but Tim argued that service to country overrules parochial politics. This last phase of his political practice, therefore, raises an important question for the immediate future of the region's political culture.
What is the significance of Tim Hector's life for our Caribbean? First, I think that Tim's life demonstrates the possibilities of our region in terms of staying the course against imperialist domination and internal authoritarianism. Tim was never a quitter and in the end even those he confronted are forced to declare him a winner. Second, Tim's life poses the question, in much the same way as Rodney's did: what is the true role of the Caribbean scholar in helping to shape and reshape the practice of politics? Is it as agitator operating outside of formal political institutions or is it as agitator working inside these institutions? Is it as collaborator with reformist politicians in the quest for nationalism? Is it as scholar-activist remaining true to conventional scholarship while attempting political activism or is it as radical scholar serving as the bridge between scholarship and popular movements?
Third, one aspect of his political behavior that is an example for all political activists to follow was his ability to oppose vigorously but never to hate. His assessment of Vere Bird Snr, Lester Bird, George Walter and Baldwin Spencer are classics in this regard. Finally, I think Tim Hector's life represents the formation of the Caribbean personhood that responds to the elements of his society--politics, cricket regionalism, history, reggae, calypso, and fiction in an engaged rather than detached manner. Hector never lost sight of his significance to Antigua but that never clouded his vision of Caribbean nationhood.
As with all public persons, Tim committed some acts of indiscretion and poor political judgment. But in the end I think he was an example of tenacity, independence, and patriotism. Antigua and the Caribbean would certainly miss his physical intervention, but his life's work will always be a pillar of strength and fortitude for those of us who continue the journey towards facilitating the environment for true empowerment and liberation of our Caribbean and the powerless of all regions of the world.
Perhaps the words of one of Tim's favorite poets, Martin Carter, sums up my farewell to a warrior, a Caribbean warrior:
Now from the mourning vanguard moving on dear comrade I salute you and I say Death will not find us thinking that we die.
Dr Hinds is a lecturer in Caribbean Studies and Political Science at Arizona State University in the USA. He is also a political activist and International Secretary of the Working People's Alliance (WPA) of Guyana.
Hector: In Tribute
By Paul Buhle - Posted November 15th, 2002
"Globalization," Tim Hector wrote in one of his incisive and widely-read columns, happens to be "unrelentingly hostile" to its Third World victims, contrary to the mainstream media images of peoples held back only by their own ignorance and by corrupt rulers from entering the modern cornucopia. It is also, contrary to the rest of the current hype, at least a half-millennium old. Both sides of the equation merit the closest examination.
The essential nature of the modernizing as well as the modern world, ultimate motive force behind the contemporary thrust, can be grasped in the tale of the Caribbean. Today's rivalries of clashing powers seem to leave the region completely behind in world events, a backwater of tiny islands whose very existence may be in doubt with the effects of global warming on sea-levels. But this would be looking at things upside-down, not only because crucial origins of the modern era lie here, and not only because descendents of the Caribbean Basin (including Mexicans) bid fair in the coming generations to become the largest population group in the world's leading power. There is another reason: people of the Caribbean are in many ways quite special. They can have a singular effect on the project of redemption that has become by now a do-or-die proposition for civilization.
The path from that now distant past of conquest, repopulation and repeated repopulation, slavery and its world-changing profits, the creation of colonial institutions and popular uprising against them, independence and the penetration of neocolonialism into the very fabric of Caribbean being, is the proper subject of this short book. The life of one utterly remarkable intellectual, a former Shakespeare teacher (until fired, then jailed by his government), New Left/Black Power intellectual, political organizer and newspaper editor, offers better than anyone else the many currents sweeping the islands like seasonal tides. Leonard Tim Hector offers us a voice and a template. He also offers us a life in search of freedom, at once political and artistic, egalitarian and multiracial. He is a surviving beacon for the cause that many millions died seeking in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a cause repeatedly betrayed but never entirely lost.
These days, when black sports and film stars make millions of dollars and capture headlines, it is easy (especially for those eager to do so) to forget the extremity of history's weight. Many wish to put the burden back in the slavery period, long ago, washing over the last five or more generations as the benevolent and inevitable arrival of meritocracy, the victory of trans-race individualism. Hector's friends, searching the Colonial Office records, came across a secret communication by three white leaders of Antigua in 1937, offering us some keener insight that most histories. To the emerging cries for freedom, the leaders stood upon their own conception of historical ground: the "Negroes in these Leeward Islands are not an indigenous native race and have no claim to self-government." Very simple, very clear. The mother country and "white settlers" had a "trusteeship toward the Immigrant Negro race," best met by a combination of charity and recognition of "those individuals of the black race who fit themselves" with "character, balance and education" to help carry the "responsibilities and position of the white race." How well put! And how little changed, in a global sense, from that day to this.
Hector's tiny home island, desperately poor, water-scarce and tyrannized, a favorite of casino gamblers and off-shore operators who leave little behind for the employees, would seem an unlikely setting for a great story. The entire Eastern Caribbean, never a hub of modern activity like Cuba and Puerto Rico, indeed hardly appears in the popular literature of Europeans or North Americans except as a tourist destination for fun in the sun and perhaps also sex in the shade. The literary phenomenon of Jamaica Kincaid (who long threatened to return to Antigua for life if Hector ever became Prime Minister) and the sheer contrary individualism of her famed novels seem to underline the impossibility of a coherent narrative here.
But that conclusion would miss much. Hector, moving through a life of furious activity into middle age and beyond, often reminded the reader that he stands upon the shoulder of others including a few giants. The first of these, the one closest to him personally and politically, is C.L.R. James. Another, from the following generations, is Walter Rodney. We will see a great deal of James in the following pages, as totemic figure in Caribbean literature, philosophy, politics, labor and above all cultural understanding-and no little of Rodney, genius historian, political organizer and Hector's near-contemporary.
Emphatically a world figure increasingly recognized by younger scholars as such, James (1901-89) summed up in his thinking and his actions an age. He left behind not only a large view of Caribbean history and life, but also a large view of the seemingly hopeless dilemmas in which humanity finds itself; more important than diagnoses are his prescriptions for cure, no simple Rx substituting one hierarchical system for another (as communism, capitalism and national- or religious-based exclusionism have posed against each other) but a replacement based upon the participation of ordinary people in all the decisions, economic as well as political and also ecological, that face them. That vision, as old as the dream of the Golden Day before the existence of hierarchies, has fared badly in a disappointing twentieth century. But its last words have not been uttered.
James' vision was never devoted to leveling down, contrary to utterly false charges of "Russianism" against it by Caribbean politicians (and notably by his fellow Trinidadian V.S. Naipaul, who invented a caricature of James so as to attack the reputation of the original). Achievement of great things depended, in James's wide view, very much upon the role of individual genius, not of the genius individual in a vacuum, but the ways in which the writer, poet, musician, filmmaker, and the political revolutionary, could articulate the sensations and perceptions of the ordinary crowd. James had been trained for this perception by a childhood and youth in seemingly backward colonial society, absorbing as much of British culture and the gifts of Greek antiquity as any precocious youngster might anywhere in the Commonwealth (and more likely than at home). He had also been trained by the close observation of the society around him, and as he grew to maturity, the unfairness of the rules that seemed to place the graceful black cricketer outside the bounds of formal aesthetics and even sporting history, a particularly informative passion of the young man. Cricket helped him understand the disastrous effects of racism upon a whole society and (at a large stage) how the uplifting of sport could also uplift a people.
In the mirror of Hector's life, we can also see a handful of others, forgotten rebels of the Caribbean past, calypsonians of note (especially the worker-scholar of the calypso, Hollis Liverpool aka Lord Chalkdust, novelists Naipaul, Earl Lovelace and Wilson Harris, but especially the collection of radical nationalists who led islands through stormy independence struggles and beyond. One of Hector's chief antagonists is notably also, for his early accomplishments, a personal hero: Vere Cornwall Bird, the labor leader and politician who stood heroically against the British for decades, and then capitulated to the corruption of post-colonialism, grabbing a share of it for himself and his descendents; C.L.R. James's protégé Eric Williams, the historian and premier of Trinidad and Tobago (with a career path roughly similar to Bird's), then Guyana's Cheddi Jagan and Walter Rodney, Jamaica's Michael Manley and Grenada's Maurice Bishop-all of them martyrs, in some cases willingly and in others unwillingly, to the ruthlessness of neocolonialism. Hector crossed their paths, seeing them, knowing them, as a Caribbean of intellect and taste knows another.
"We know that we are nourished by the past," Wilson Harris reflects, "but we know that the past also needs us, and that unless we can create an original role for ourselves in the present we will destroy our connections with the past." No one in the region has reacted more deeply, more continuously to that appeal than Hector, for whom the lessons and the enigmas of the past bear lessons for today.
In James's exceedingly widening view, as he came to maturity, the Caribbean had vital contributions to make to the reconstruction of a wounded and self-destructive global society. Harris, urging Caribbeans to take advantage of what he called the "open state of consciousness" latent in the regional experience, insisted similarly that the "true capacity of marginal and disadvantaged cultures resides in their genius to tilt the field of civilization" making possible a "different apprehension of reality," and a different reality itself.
Stated one way or another, this is a view that Hector absorbed from James at close range, and transformed in his own distinct way as the salvation of the region in a transformation of the world. To understand the real meanings of a culture based on extermination and on slavery, denied its own language and religion but triumphant in survival, is to see the hidden potential beneath the rubble. No one from the region except the master himself has seen the history, the rubble, or the surviving potential as well as Hector, or has lived a life more fully amid the pain and promise.
That life ended on the morning of Nov.12, 2002. It was a most terrible shock without being any great surprise. Tim had traveled to Cuba for heart surgery in April, and in his own journalistic description, family and friends of decades' standing saw him off with tears in their eyes-they feared they would not see him again. Stronger in spirit than in body, writing from his hospital bed, Tim struggled for life. Further treatment took him to the US, back to Cuba and finally to his home island, whose frighteningly bad emergency health care system may well have contributed to his drastically premature demise.
CLR James had been over sixty when he met and worked with Tim Hector, a fact that alone would point to the tragedy of Hector's absence from the next generations of young idealists who gain the most from a mentor's encouragement, criticism and (above all) personal example. That Tim writes and acts no more is a huge tragedy for the little island of Antigua, deprived of its most articulate voice against corruption and for a different way of life. It is a body blow to Pan Africanism, whose ranks have been so deprived of outstanding figures in just a few years; even more to Pan-Caribbeanism, the renewed vision of Federation more necessary than ever as globalism makes the insular economies ever more fragile. The forces of socialism-from-below, the overturning of "Statism" for a democratic model, have lost their hands-on champion.
All these causes, including the undying necessity of a cooperative global society, will go on. They depend on no one person. Perhaps Tim Hector's memory will prompt them to the project of renewal, as more war clouds gather and the fate of the planet is put at risk. But he will be absent, and we are all the poorer for it. ##
Paul Buhle is author or editor of several volumes on C.L.R. James. He teaches at Brown University.