Re-Brand the PNM!
The Lyrics and The Licks
PRIVATE CAPITALIST GROUPING
Initially, this group, largely comprising Whites, Chinese, Syrian-Lebanese, Indians as well as racially Mixed people, attacked the PNM regimes hoping to gain space to acquire and control lucrative areas of the economy. They criticized the PNM for the extent to which the PNM advanced State control of key areas of the economy and made the State the primer mover and facilitator of economic development. In the immediate post-Independence period, this group was not strong enough as a social entity to contest for the commanding heights of the economy, and, therefore, they needed the State to facilitate and promote their development through specific fiscal and other measures for which they lobbied, e.g., negative listing, subsidies, import substitution incentives etc. In many cases, the PNM regimes provided this grouping with virtual monopolies in the local market-place and assisted in negotiating trade internationally that benefited and greatly favoured them. Yet the dichotomy: the more they developed precisely because of the regime's measures, the more they came to see the various PNM Governments as blocking their way to control of the commanding heights of the economy and to lucrative partnerships with foreign investors. They demand the divestment of state share-holdings in manufacturing, communications, service industries and in the down-stream areas of the oil and petro-chemical sector. The PNM regimes, true to the Party's programme, promoted divestment but with the caveat that divestment should be implemented only after the Stock Exchange and the mechanism of the Unit Trust were in place and developed so that the largest number of the citizenry could benefit rather than a tiny elite group of entrepreneurs.
In order to counter the PNM's approach to divestment, this grouping as it was wont to do historically, subtly used race, ethnicity and class bonding as convenient, emotional weapons to, first of all, maintain solidarity within their sub-groups and at the same time subvert and limit the programmes of such government agencies as the Unit Trust, IDC, DFC, etc. Recall their vociferous appeals for "a level playing field" in the finance sector. Yet, when eventually the PNM began to place large-scale divestments on the table, this group and its local conglomerates, despite being encouraged, proved incapable of being serious contenders. The PNM, by then already committed to the course of liberalization, privatization and certain specific IMF conditionalities, much to the chagrin of the working-class activists and nationalists, turned to foreign investors and certain government to government arrangements. "Selling out our patrimony and national treasures to foreigners," became the cry of all the anti-PNM groups. But once that course was set, there could be no turning back unless the PNM on review chose to abandon the overall strategy for national economic development. In as much as such a policy shift is not on the PNM's agenda, the major elements of his social grouping are prepared to support any programme of government that will give them room to extent their capital accumulation and concentration through various strategic amalgamations with the aim eventually to position themselves to further dominate the growing local economy. To ensure such a positioning, they are quite prepared to buy political influence as they have been known to do in the past and to even establish their own political party or parties – an option which shall most likely be the chosen one in the future as they, as a social grouping, become bolder and more confident of their class prominence.
The worldview of this group can be traced back to the "Garveyites" and the UNIA and the Pan-Africanists who advocated that a strong, united, free Africa had to be the prerequisite for the respect, freedom, dignity and development of African people in the Diaspora, most of all by definition their ideology was intrinsically anti-imperialist, anti-colonial, and pro non-alignment. They were the ones, who, as part of their worldview, actively advocated South-South dialogue and South-South economic relationships as priority over North-South traditional trading patterns and relations. To this grouping it was essential that strategies be developed geared to minimize the in-depth psychological effects of slavery and the continuing, worldwide, anti-African, racist tendencies. It is important to note that this grouping comprise the largest section of organized labour in T&T. They have been consistently critical of successive PNM regimes for projecting a value-system that is, by and large, Eurocentric with little regard to promoting African culture and African traditions and sensibilities save and except the superficial and plastic rituals of stage presentations of "Better Village" productions. Nevertheless, what is commonly and highly regarded as Caribbean popular culture or "Creole Culture", though an assimilation and cross-fertilisation of all the influences that converged in this region, is largely African-derived though it is not recognized as such.
The point to note is that this hybrid Creole Culture is the dominant culture in the Caribbean region. Most everybody participates readily in whichever aspect according to choice; nothing is imposed, but because the great African contribution to this Creole Culture is not recognized as African. It suggests that Africans created nothing here, now, or in the past. This major failing, promoted particularly by PNM regimes, facilitates the continued degradation of Africans and African descendants in this part of the world. The justification and/or escape mechanism constructed to support or assuage this posture is, in fact, a confusing of RACE, as classification of origin, with NATIONALITY, one's place of birth; so we end up with the typical "we are Trinidadians and Tobagonians, not Africans" syndrome while everyone else holds dearly to their ethnicity and are clear on the difference between racial origin and place of birth. The PNM promoted that stupidity and utter nonsense. Today, there is little solidarity, emotional or otherwise, among African citizens here, a basic requirement for socio-economic networking for the advancement of any social grouping in this plural context. Today, there is, to quote Best, no "validating elite", whether land-holding or landless, among this milieu to provide the required social leadership. And all this has resulted in a lack of capacity of the members of this social milieu to develop or to take collective responsibility for the development of widespread independent economic means thereby rendering this social milieu totally dependent on the State for day to day largesse in the form of "salaries and wages" and, therefore, locked outside of the processes and systems of wealth generation and accumulation. Of all the existing social milieus in T&T, this said milieu, of which the Black Nationalists are merely a militant segment, has proven to be the least able, as a result of the given history, to advance beyond impoverishment as legacy.
In the period 1957 – 1969, militant elements of this grouping were the most active within the trade union movement, mobilizing against certain PNM proclamations like the ISA and demanding better conditions particularly after Independence and the rise of new levels of combativeness. This struggle eventually escalated into the social explosion of 1970 – generally and shallowly referred to as the BLACK POWER REVOLUTION, owing to the then emotional posturing and sloganeering that were largely borrowed from the North American scenario by this social milieu which at that time provided the leadership. From that February Revolution, spearheaded by the NJAC and the Progressive Soldiery, to the emergence and demise of NUFF, some 300 plus idealistic youth of this social milieu were killed by the coercive forces of the State in clashes of one sort or another without any serious attempt by the PNM Party to come to terms objectively with the new consciousness and demands emanating particularly from this grouping as well as other sectors of the whole population. Once again, it was the basic failure of the PNM party to deal with the politics of the day that would serve to make many of this social milieu, i.e., the descendants of the Garveyites and Butlerites, the children of PNM's foundation members, the youths impassioned by the worldview popularised by CLR James and the Pan-Africanists etc., uncomfortable with and deeply alienated from the PNM. The very best, the most progressive, the most skilled of the professional sons and daughters of this social milieu could not be persuaded to join the party of their parents and grand-parents, and sadly so because they could have been the ones today to fire the imaginations of new generations. This was the very social grouping, the teachers, advanced workers, professionals and so on who comprised the largest percentage of the base support that originally provided the PNM with its vision in 1955-1956, and they are the very types today who question the myopia of PNM's leadership, concerned merely with winning elections and pandering mostly to the hand-outs demanded by the urban lumpen-proletariat. That is, the image of the PNM which such people hold today and whether it is a true or false assessment is quite irrelevant; the perception counts. The point is that the PNM never sought to re-examine itself or to review its programmes strategically and tactically to accommodate the new consciousness that had been generalized and the new demands that had arisen there-from. From the worldview that emanated from the august icons of the 1955 Bandung Conference and the vision ratified in the People's Charter as a covenant with all the people of the Caribbean Region, to now being viewed and categorized as a "Special Works" Party nurturing the dependency syndrome of the urban lumpen-proletariat; oh, how far have the mighty fallen? It became almost anathema for young, serious, progressive, politically-conscious Afro-Trinidadians and Tobagonians to be associated in any way with the PNM Party. The PNM had become an embarrassment to many of this social milieu.