Bukka Rennie

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Re-Brand the PNM!

The Lyrics and The Licks

It is always necessary to start at the beginning. The founders of the PNM opined that this was to be a RALLY, a MOVEMENT, which would take the populace away from the social strictures and debilitating structures of colonialism unto a BRAVE NEW WORLD. Hence the slogan, "Massa Day Done" that best reflected the spirit and spine of the programme outlined as the PEOPLE'S CHARTER. It is therefore not incidental that, of all the political parties existing in T&T, the PNM by the very nature of its birth, growth and peculiar development has entrusted unto itself a most grave, tremendous historic burden. Whereas all others can suffice on myopic, narrow, localized interests and have had their greatest moments within those precise parameters as determined by the sectoral and limited interests of their constituent support-communities, NOT SO THE PNM. The PNM's greatest moments have always been and will always be fuelled by the philosophical vision of a "brave new world", mass democracy, sovereignty and nationhood and the quest for the entire Caribbean to rendezvous with the rest of humanity at common, mutual, modern crossroads. Any organization entrusted with such a heavy, historic mission must be faced with tremendous, ongoing challenges.

With the other political manifestations that emerged likewise from within the social milieu of local middle-class groupings, there have been no such grand historic mission and universal vision and therefore blind loyalty to personal secular economic and religious interests have been paramount. So continuity could be quite easily maintained despite the various name-changes and amalgamations (e.g. DLP, ACDC-DLP, ALLIANCE, PANDAY'S ULF, NAR and UNC on the one hand and on the other hand, POPPG, LIBERALS, ONR, NAR, and COP. All the above titular transformations were quite possible from generation to generation simply because their narrow, sectoral, material interests – the connecting threads – have not changed and their sole aim has simply been to remove the PNM and take office. The PNM, however, having captured State Power very early in its existence, has sought in the mean, over its 30 years of uninterrupted rule in a rapidly changing world environment, to prepare, build and continuously enhance the infrastructural development that would facilitate citizens through their own enterprise and sacrifice to attain modern standards of living, despite our smallness, our economy of scale, and our being sardines in a world of predatory sharks.

Why then is the PNM faced with such great dilemma today? How can such a political organization fired by the ideas and icons of the 1955 BANDUNG CONFERENCE, fueled by the most modern, universal political thought and tendencies of the 20th century prove so unable now to attract into its structures the most capable sons and daughters of its very founding fathers? And how come after some 40 years such a large portion of the populace can feel so alienated that one young female in 1995 at the RIENZI COMPLEX on the night of the UNC-NAR victory could shout out so emotionally: "Free at last! Thank God, we free from bondage!"


Much of the dilemma stems from a particular misconception very early in the life of the PNM. Propagating the Party as the RALLY, the MOVEMENT, the coming together of the whole people, may be good inspirational rhetoric but dangerous from the point of view of strategy and tactics. And we can appreciate how this came about given the fact that the PNM was nurtured in anti-colonial struggle when the enemy was easily identified as foreign and the simplistic notion of "we" versus "them" worked. Our realities today are much more complex. It is particularly dangerous today not to distinguish the "we" in that political equation. The Party will always be an organized minority committed to devote time and energy to carry out specific day to day activities in a disciplined manner. The activity is orchestrated by an appointed administration that co-ordinates and assesses the work that is being done and that which is being planned to be done in accordance with a rigid time-frame. Everything depends on what is to be done, how it is to be done and when it is to be done. The Movement is the mass of people in their work-places and communities who are the targeted beneficiaries of the Party's programme of activities.

The concerns of the mass, the issues to which they gravitate are the life-blood of the Party. And the Party, if it is progressive, attaches the worldview or the universal to the specifics of the mass. The Party plans, mobilizes and executes programmes among the people. The Party moves from "thoughts" and "plans" to action, i.e., from consciousness to action. The masses of people tend to demonstrate, through action, their thoughts. The two phenomena, i.e. PARTY and MASS, moving from opposite poles, must integrate and synchronise and have intercourse in order to fulfill fundamental social development. The biggest mistake one can make is to confuse theoretically these structures and concepts. It is stated in the People's Charter that the PNM is a "rally" is a "convention of all and for all." The party cannot be everybody, nor, as the Charter says, "the mobilization of all the forces in the country... with emphasis on united action by all the people in the common cause," even though its membership may cut across racial, religious, class and colour lines. The Party is not the Mass – is by far not the whole country. The Party is not synonymous with the Mass. Furthermore, even the idea of a Mass Party can be deemed a contradiction of terms: an oxymoron. And when, therefore, the Party addresses itself, it is wrong to assume that that is tantamount to addressing the whole people, the Mass Movement or the Nation. This is even more dangerous when, like the PNM, the Party in question also formed the government of the day for 30 odd years.

The point is that strategically, Government, Party and Mass must be clear, distinct structures and concepts. The Government as State Administrators must be clearly distinct and apart from the Party; precisely because the State by nature is conservative and its tendency is to promote and defend the established status-quo, while the Party must be the progressive element whose tendency it is to constantly prod the State forward, even at times, triggering the Mass Movement to cement advancement. To sum up: The Party is not the country; the Party is merely a minority section of the population organized to do specific tasks; once that confusion is eliminated, the quicker we become tactically ready to do the work that is necessary to win the minds of the people and take them into the 21st Century.


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