Bukka Rennie

December Articles         Home

To hell with backsliders

December 14, 2004

More and more we tend to come over as if we are a lost people. You listen to talk everywhere, you listen to people who are supposed to know better, you listen to the academics and would-be political pundits talk about constitution reform and such the like and most of all you listen to MPs in the House of Representatives talk about the Caribbean Court of Justice, the Caribbean Single Market and Economy and you are forced to shudder as some question the logic and rationale of these objective imperatives.

Imagine the concept and the idea of "political union" of the Caribbean being referred to as "hare-brained" and "madcap plans!" Imagine that in 2004. One is forced to ask, what is it that these people know? And why is it that they know so little of their own selves?

Today we are forced in this column to reflect on what was said in this very space in January 2001 under the title "Our historic mission":

...A Constitution is a social contract between people bonded together by history, geography and landscape. History, geography and landscape therefore determine in many ways the purpose and mission of people thus bonded together in society.

How we interpret our experiences in our specific environment and how we organise ourselves to reproduce our livelihood therein are the underlying fundamentals to any society and are the bricks that make up the structures of all the social institutions that we create in order to preserve and extend our civilisation.

All our activities, be they political, economic, cultural, judicial, etc have in fact to be informed by our historic purpose and mission. To the extent that we are out of sync with our historic mission is the same extent to which the Constitution, the highest body of laws of the land, will prove problematic. Precisely because we are out of sync with ourselves.

The spirit and the letter of the social contract will at most times be at variance, if the fundamentals of our purpose and mission are not kept foremost before our very eyes. All those who call for constitutional reform without the demand to revisit our historic mission are in fact irresponsible. What is our historic mission?

...We are island societies of a specific region, peopled in a particular way and by a particular process, developed to be the hinterland and outposts of metropolitan epicentres and designed to be a large labour pool to satisfy the vagaries of international capitalism.

From the Joint-Stock West India Company of the 1640s, probably the very first forms of corporate capital in history, to the BP-Amocos of today, the relationship with us and to all that obtains here has remained fundamentally the same.

From since then we were forged and fashioned by the processes and structures of large-scale socialised labour, ie, slavery, indentureship, wage-work, or, to put it another way, by plantation relations, into being a unique Caribbean people, whose whole and sole purpose is being free to be free according to Lamming and to be democratic in all affairs—in other words to procure the very antithesis of plantation relations.

In fact, all our struggles in this region, from time immemorial, have been geared to making ourselves our own reason for being and making ourselves, we the people, the masters of these island societies.

When the mass movements of the '20s, '30s and '40s were centre stage in the Caribbean, the historic mission of home rule (ie independence and republicanism) and federation of the islands was foremost on the political-economic agenda of the working masses. They never deviated.

It was only in the '50s with the coming to the fore of the middle-class intelligentsia and their eventual capture of the leadership and control of the mass movements, that our historic purpose and mission came to be compromised...

...The middle-class intelligentsia, formally educated precisely for that reason by the colonial system, educated to be eternally conservative and to perpetuate the system, never desired the complete removal of the old relationship, but instead elected to tinker with the fundamentals to fashion their own style and stage of managing the old order.

Both the 1962 and 1976 Constitutions reflect this conservatism and deviation from the historic mission of the Caribbean masses. That explains why every thrust upwards from the people below and almost every dispute today between rival forces amongst the elite forces tend to be expressed in terms of constitutional crises...

Race was not the major factor in Caribbean reality when the workers and farmers movement was centre stage. Cipriani and Rienzi could at one time lead the largely Afro-Caribbean Trinidad Labour Party and oil workers, just as Butler, and later Weekes, could be offered the leadership of Indo-Caribbean sugar workers.

The history is there to show that the racial cleavages at the roots intensified and crystallised with the emergence and entrenchment of the leadership of the middle-class intelligentsia on both sides of the divide to the extent that by the time of independence one-half of the population had already become mortally afraid of home rule under a government led largely by Afro-Caribbean people and even more afraid of a Caribbean federation or political union in which they would be a miniscule minority...

...The irony though is that none of the individual island societies can by themselves fare as well as they may wish in context of the present stage of globalisation. None of them can exist without intra-regional trade and regular political and economic support from each other. All over the world regional trading blocks are either being formed or enhanced by political will.

It is this political-economic regional demand that will force us back to our historic mission. T&T's manufacturing and finance sectors are now the most aggressive and competitive in the region and the rest of the region is beginning to complain. Will we strive only to make profits off the region and not take responsibility for the further integration and development on behalf of all the peoples of the region?

The other aspect of the irony of course is that some of the very people who stand in mortal fear of any form of Caribbean political unity are some of the very ones who are captains of local manufacturing industries who stand in dire need of the Caricom market.

Will they merely profit from Caricom and then turn and talk nonsense about "charity begins at home" and "fix home first" whenever assistance is provided for the less fortunate Caribbean neighbours who need the assistance to be able to purchase goods and services from T&T?

We say stand firm with the purpose and the mission and to hell with all those who may wish, for whatever reason, to backslide.

December Articles         Home