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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rodney Speaks: Memorable Quotes, Speeches or Phrases by Walter Rodney

The bomb that exploded in Georgetown, Guyana on June 13, 1980 may have snatched Walter Rodney from the physical, but it couldn't kill the Brother's words. Though they tried to blast away what was deemed a threat to the powers that were, you can't snuff out inspiration. You can't stop words nor songs of freedom. You can't assassinate conversation.
Martyrdom fueled Rodney's voice. Walter cried out about injustice. Walter lectured about social imbalances and inequalities. Walter informed about OUR history.
Walter grounded.
Walter spoke.
Walter speaks.

"By what standard of morality can the violence used by a slave to break his chains be considered the same as the violence of a slave master?"

"I would go further down intWest Kingston and I would speak wherever there was a possibility of our getting together. It might be in a sports club, it might be in a schoolroom, it might be in a church, it might be in a gully. (Those of you who come from Jamaica know those gully corners.) They are dark, dismal places with a black population who have had to seek refuge there. You will have to go there if you want to talk to them. I have spoken in what people call ‘dungle’, rubbish dumps, for that is where people live in Jamaica. People live in rubbish dumps. That is where the government puts people to live. Indeed, the government does not even want them to live in rubbish dumps. I do not know where they want them to go, because they bulldoze them off the rubbish dumps and send them God knows where. I have sat on a little oil drum, rusty and in the midst of garbage, and some Black Brothers and I have grounded together.
Now obviously, this, first of all, must have puzzled the Jamaican government*. I must be mad, surely, a man we are giving a job, we are giving status, what is he doing with these guys. [The newspaper] calls them all manner of names… you know: ‘criminals and hooligans’. What is he doing with them? So they are puzzled and then obviously after that suspicion, he must be up to something, as the paper will try to imply. But we spoke, we spoke about a lot of things and it was just the talking that was important, the meeting of black people.
~ Groundings With My Brothers
*at that time Hugh Shearer was Prime Minister

I trust that my use of the words such as ‘capitalism’, ‘imperialism’, and ‘neocolonialism’
will not be deemed as a cover for sinister intent. My indulgence in
those terms is aimed at opposing a system which is barbarous and
dehumanizing – the one which snatched me from Africa in chains and deposited
me in far off lands to be a slave beast, then a sub-human colonial subject, and
finally an outlaw in those lands. Under these circumstances, one asks nothing
more but to be allowed to learn from, participate in and be guided by the African
Revolution in this part of the continent; for this Revolution here is aimed at
destroying that monstrous system and replacing it with a just socialist society.
Rodney in letter in the Nationalist newspaper (Tanzania) 17th December, 1969;
walter rodney poster
walter rodney poster (Photo credit: nicholaslaughlin)
cited in Issa Shivji, 1980

"I was brought up not very far from here, in a typical range yard in Bent Street.
And there, amidst the poverty, looking back now, I can see in my mind’s eye
ordinary black people who were worth everything, who were human beings who
had strength, who had character. Never mind he may have been a cartman,
never mind the woman may have been taking in washing. When you stop to think
about it, they had character. Some of them were miracle workers, because it’s a
miracle how they used to bring up families on what they earned.And now I
cannot accept that such people must be put to do some dirty political
skullduggery – coming to court, lying, to get another man convicted of murder...
    …as I said before, you start with one thing, you end with another. The system
doesn’t stop at racial discrimination. Because it is a system of class oppression, it
only camouflages its class nature under a racial cover. And in the end, it will
move against anyone irrespective of colour. In the end, they will move even
against their own. Because, don’t believe if you are a member of that party today,
that you will be protected tomorrow from the injustices. Because when a monster
grows, it grows out of control. It eats up even those who created the monster.
And it’s time that our people understood that."
From speech in 1977,campaigning in defence of Arnold Rampersaud who was accused of the murder
of policeman James Henry.

"I try to find some meaning among the mass of the population who are daily performing a miracle, they continue to survive! Kingston is meaner  then when you left it, and when you left it you probably did not know how mean it is… Today, all that matters, is the question of action, determined, informed and scientific action against imperialism and its cohorts. Just as Leonardo Da Vinci is the archetype of Renaissance Man, so Che Guevara is the ideal of Revolutionary Man. All that is required is that one should extract the essence of his life's experiences, rather than attempt to embrace his numerous suggestions concerning guerrilla warfare. The latter course has the serious limitation of being irrelevant to many objective situations (as Che knew).. I doubt whether the situation is explosive, and I doubt whether I will be here long enough to witness the explosion; but as a matter of integrity I must address myself to that question so long as I am here. Otherwise, what will distinguish me from the Philistines?"

"I was doing some paper on the Russian Revolution and it struck me that this Lenin was a person who had a tremendous capacity for intellectualizing and at the same time doing. In my own naïve way, I called this phenomenon ‘a revolutionary intellectual.’ But the professor was very hard on this statement. He said: ‘There is no such thing. One can be an intellectual or one can be a revolutionary. You can’t combine the two. Lenin may at one time have been a revolutionary, at another time an intellectual, but the moment he moves into practical activity he must abandon intellectualism.’This was a most curious argument. I just sensed that something was wrong about it. And I felt that somehow being a revolutionary intellectual might be a goal to which one might aspire, for surely there was no real reason why one should remain in the academic world – that is, remain an intellectual – and at the same time not be revolutionary."

"Lenin as a Revolutionary Intellectual," from Walter Rodney Speaks


  1. keep it coming. a pebble in a trench can be a ripple in all our minds

  2. @Chungeh ...most definitely. If we don't tell Ourstory, who will?

  3. Thanks you just kindled my curiosity.

    1. Glad to have stirred your curiosity. Each one, Teach one!


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