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Abdullah's Dirty Underpants

May 6, 2001
By Selwyn R. Cudjoe

The varied political coatings that David Abdullah and friends-read some of his trade union buddies-put on their political strivings, always intrigue me. No matter where they start or what direction they go in, their goal is always the same: the achievement of state power. They wish to follow in the illustrious steps of Basdeo Panday, a fellow trade unionist. Wasn't it Errol Mc Cloud who decreed Panday his Comrade Leader and assured us that all would be well with the world (or was it the working people?) once Comrade Leader was in power? Now Comrade Leader sits among the pomp and vanity of the parasitical oligarchy and not even the king's horses and the king's men could tear him away from the ease of capitalist grandeur. Surely, there must be room in this kingdom of greed for Abdullah and friends, such a gallant bunch of patriots.

Given such splendid altruistic motives, one wonders why they seek to insult our intelligence in such a blatant manner. They have chosen a Constitutional Reform Movement (CRM) as their vehicle of choice. Yet, I wonder why they begin their high-minded patriotic duty with such race baiting. As a trade unionist, one would have thought Abdullah would spurn race bating as much as he must hate red baiting. He must know that C. L. R. James, his patron saint, was the victim of such cursedness when Joseph McCarthy, the worst enemy of working people, threw James out of the US in 1954. But then ambition has no bounds; power knows no limits.

It is only naked ambition that allows a movement for constitutional reform to advance the following rationale: "There is urgent need for the silent majority [language of the most extreme arm of the US Republican Party] of sensible, decent-minded citizens to make their voices heard above the din of noise and heat generated by protagonists of racial conflict." Only sheer inanity allows Lyle Townsend and Dennis Pantin to call racial conflagration upon us if we do not attend to our constitution, our social and political system. In fact, Pantin threatens a race war if CRM's version of constitutional reform (not that we know what that is) is not attended to. Only someone of warped mind and limited intelligence can ask a T&T audience: "Are you ready for a race war?" Even Sat Maharaj is not ready to commit such political harikari.

It is telling that CRM chose the language of the most extreme manifestation of anti-worker and anti-Black sentiment in the US (the Reagan/Nixon arm of the Republican Party) to rally their troops. It is even more unfortunate that they dragged the "protagonists of racial conflict" into their unholy mess. If the latter generated a discussion on constitutional reform, logic suggests they should be asked to continue it. And if it is true that the silent majority has remained silent, I wonder what kind of snake oil Abdullah, Pantin and Townsend will use to make them audible, active and majoritarianism again?

Our purveyors of truth and light must also teach us to know the difference between the protagonists of racial conflict and those of racial harmony. They must also tell us why the threat of racial war is likely to fast-track constitutional reform. To hear them say it, in this wondrous land of ours, where all was milk, honey, human kindness and racial harmony, some obeah man disrupted such blessedness. Like abracadabra, Pantin, Abdullah, Townsend and their snake oil have the power to put the disruptive forces back into the barrel again and police racial disrupters. Perhaps their sixty followers represent the start of a major constitutional movement that will gradually return the society to sanity and peace, free of the racial mindbenders (wasn't that Rudder's term?) and ethic chauvinists.

Abdullah, Pantin and Townsend are also colossal in their own rite. Given their superior knowledge and un-raced agenda, they advertise themselves as "a body to promote political, social and economic improvement" of the silent and un-silent citizens; the sensible and not so sensible, the decent and the foul-minded alike. One may have to excuse my ignorance, but why does this sound like a formula to reincarnate MOTION-the failed party of OWTU and friends-to achieve the elusive butterfly of political power. Even Panday, with his whims, fancies, and outrageousness would not dare foist such palpably chupidness on sensible, decent-minded people. But then genius comes in different forms and sizes and the line between genius and stupidity is a very slender one. Sometimes is hard to tell when one crosses that line.

It does not take much prescience to discern the deceptiveness beneath the surface of CRM's claims. Their learned protestations remind one of Francis Wheen's comments on Marx's Capital. He notes that Marx wrote Capital "to expose the difference between heroic appearances and inglorious reality-stripping off the gallant knight's disguise to reveal a tubby little man in his underpants." Reading Abdullah, analyzing Pantin, and listening to Townsend, one can only conclude that this time around, they have exposed their dirty political underwear for all to see.

CRM's adventure is nothing more than a picaresque journey though the shoals of pretentious non-sense. Numbed by inflated egos and blinded by arrested political ambition, they do not understand that people always speak, even though they do not speak in the cadences union leaders wish to hear. They reveal their sentiments through their lived realities, inglorious as they might be. However, it takes more than threats of destruction to discern their wishes; more than mindless pandering to apprehend their desires. It takes ears that are fastened to the ground, disconnected from the till of union dues, to hear what people are saying.

There is much eloquence in people's silences and the unsaid of their discourses. Much, too, can be learned from the sound and fury of racial utterances. It depends on who is doing the listening, why and in whose interest they are listening.

Abdullah, Pantin and Townsend should remember: Christ washed the feet of his disciples.

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