Thursday, August 9, 2018

Jamaica: Politics, race, and unemployment (1969)

From World Socialism '69

With the retirement of Norman Manley as leader of the People's National Party (PNP) Jamaica is now entering a new era in political activity. Both founding leaders, Bustamente and Manley, are now out of the way. The arena is dominated by Hugh Shearer, the present Prime Minister, for the Labour Party and Michael Manley, Manley's son, for the PNP.

The PNP have in the past expressed their support for 'Socialism' in the form of nationalisation of all the major essential services, electricity, and transport. Young Manley however made no reference to Socialism in his acceptance speech. In fact he gave no clear indication as to how the party stood, preferring to build his speech around popular phrases like 'social justice' and 'human rights'. Mindful perhaps of constant comment that the very word 'Socialism' is outdated in today's world, the new leader never mentioned it once—quite in contrast to his father's acceptance address 25 years ago. False Socialism has lost its vote appeal. Real socialists will not be displeased with this.

The motto of Jamaica is 'Out of Many One People'. Our leaders never cease telling the world that we are a model country for racial tolerance. All this has been taking a beating lately, as one of the first things a tourist is told on landing here is: "Don't leave your hotel at night, it is not safe." Early in October of last year a university lecturer from Guyana was barred from re-entering the country after attending a black writers' conference in Canada. He was accused of preaching violence and therefore being a security risk. A protest march organised by students was broken up forcibly by the police. That same night various buildings were burnt and looted. Over ten buses were also destroyed by fire. These violent acts are said to be an expression of Black Power. Chinese and people of fair complexion are the chief target. Not only American and English societies can give rise to Black Power. Here is an independent country with 90 per cent black population, under black leadership, calling for Black Power!

The misrepresentation of what independence meant has now given rise to widespread frustration. Over 20,000 kids leave school every year and enter the labour market and the last estimate put the unemployment figure at 150,000. The hopes expressed that industry would absorb the unemployment have not materialised. Factory after factory has been built employing only a menial amount of labour. The sugar industry, one of the chief users of labour, is now pressuring the government to mechanise. The decline of sugar prices on the world market makes a ton of sugar cost more to produce than it will fetch. Without the preferential agreement with Britain the industry would have folded up already. Some of the smaller factories have ceased operating. The government's dilemma is the putting out of work of thousands of unskilled workers or the slow death of the industry.

The situation in undeveloped countries like Jamaica is tense, changing, and difficult to forecast. One thing is certain: their undevelopment need not be a transition period as often believed, but can be a permanent state. Looking around, the task that faces a socialist seems overwhelming. With communication and waste of capitalism will become obvious to them. Spreading socialist knowledge may not be so difficult after this.
George Dolphy
Kingston, Jamaica.

1 comment:

imposs1904 said...

Hat tip to ALB for originally scanning this in.