Political Parties and their Contributions to
By Selwyn R. Cudjoe
Modern Trinidad and Tobago; Or,
The Political Archaeology of the Society
April 25, 2002.
A lecture delivered at the University of Woodford Square, Port of Spain, Trinidad, for "West Indian History Week"
(a) All movement takes place as a result of self-movement, not organization or direction by external forces. . . .
(b) The end towards which mankind is inexorably developing by the constant overcoming of internal antagonisms is not the enjoyment, ownership, or use of goods, but self-realization, creatively based upon the incorporation into the individual personality of the whole previous development of humanity. Freedom is creative universality, nor utility.
C. L. R. James, Facing Reality
When one is asked to examine such a wide-ranging topic over such a wide-ranging area and over such a wide-ranging period the best one can do is to extract the essence of these movements, determine what they offered, what they achieved and, in the process, how they contributed to our social and political development. In this sense, I will not enumerate how many houses PNM built or allude to how much money UNC stole. I will examine the philosophy behind the ideas and delineate how these ideas created what can be called the political archeology of the society. Without such an examination no serious discourse about the future of the society can ensue. To achieve this goal, one must be able to measure each player, show how s/he impacted on the age, identify the peculiar obstacles she faced and determine how he or she came through in the end. In such a long-flowing river of ideas, one can be sure that each player and movement made its impact even if some sounded louder than others did; some voices were clearer than others; and some movements more perspicacious than others were. One need not speak of every party that ever graced the scene. One only has to locate representative moments that propel the internal self-movement of the society. If we can do this, we will have a better understanding of how political parties contributed towards the development of modern Trinidad and Tobago.
In a discourse such as this, it is not un-reasonable to contrast the forward-looking aspirations of one kind of leader or party with a backward-looking glance and alienated rhetoric of a party whose followers were described as a "recalcitrant and hostile minority of the West Indian nation. . . prostituting the name of India for its selfish, reactionary political ends," particularly if their political behavior did not conduce to the well being of the society at the time. After all, every day politicians and non-politicians make judgements whether they are informed or not. However, a scholarly analysis of political and social matters must always be sensitive to men and their times; the complexity of their actions; the dilemmas they face; their contradictions and/or their hubris even at moments when they seem unassailable. Needless to say, there will always be an on-going debate about the conclusions we arrive at here this evening. Some of them may be deemed nonsensical; others may be considered tendentious ten years from now. Yet, we have an obligation to evaluate our relationship to our elders and our time to determine how well or how poorly we are doing. It is the least a self-reflexive people can do.
Although C.L.R. James tends to belabor and exaggerate his positions sometimes, they always prove to be good points of entrée into political and social matters. In Party Politics in the West Indies, James contends that "the first great event in the history of the West Indies is the formation of army contingents to go to fight in World War 1. It produced far and away the greatest of West Indian political leaders, Captain A. A. Cipriani." He suggests that Cipriani had enormous fate in the ordinary, barefoot man and believed that "no kind of freedom or democracy was beyond the capacities of the West Indian people." James would argue that the entire history of the Caribbean prepared them for the freedom story which, as it were, was just there for the making. As some of the members of the Grenada Revolution put it: "Is freedom we making." Our ontological vocation, James would argue, has to do with the quest for freedom and the construction of a modern society.
However, I would argue that this story is just a little too optimistic and somewhat simplified. I would add a cautionary note of which someone such as Frantz Fanon would have approved. He would say that psychological liberation is as important as economic or the political liberation; a truism to which James, Eric Williams, Basdeo Panday or even Patrick Manning paid little attention. One may argue that such psychological bondage or, if one may, psychological dissonance, is the source of many of our problems today. Some call it a lack of self-esteem; others say they are tired of blaming history. Still others would call it a neurosis of abandonment. Few seem to understand that we are constructed by our histories of indentureship and slavery and that if we fail to examine these devils we will never be free to embrace one another as brothers and sisters. In this regard, the African man is scared by his slave and colonial past more than his Indian brother is; a proposition we must examine a little more to realize its truth content. I repeat. Psychological liberation is the necessary pre-requisite for any form of liberation and we fool ourselves if we do not stop, listen and think about how our psychic makeup have been shaped by a past that sometimes is too shameful to remember or too painful to examine. Twenty years ago, in A Just and Moral Society, I offered the following advice: "We should open up the body politic and the body social to a serious discussion about the grave psychical conflict in our nation." My concerns are still valid today.
Within the trajectory of our contemporary freedom story, one might say that Cipriani represents a beginning. James noted that he struggled against "the bad manners, the injustice, the tyranny, and the treachery of Crown Colony Government." Although Alfred Richards found the Trinidad Working Men's Association at the end of the 19th century, it floundered during the first twenty years of the 20th century. It was resuscitated by Howard Bishop, Fred Adams, Julian Brathwaite, D. Headley and W. Samuel, colored men, who "were interested in their own people." In 1919 when Cipriani became President he changed it from being a trade union organization to a political party, the first political party in Trinidad and Tobago. TWA promoted a working men's compensation ordinance, trade union legislation (which was passed in 1932), an eight-hour day, the abolition of child labor, compulsory education, competitive examinations into the civil service, poor law relief and the abolition of the Seditious Publications Ordinance that banned publications such as Negro World, the Crusader and the Messenger. My mother reminds me that when Cipriani began to agitate for workers' pensions, my great grandfather turned to my great grand mother and said: "Rose, Cipriani must be mad! Yo' ever hear people getting pay for not working." Such was the conception then. No one should really be paid if one did not work. And this is where the function of leadership comes in: to see and believe in possibilities where others may not be capable of seeing; to aim at things that others may not always be able to pinpoint and to locate.
General labor unrest in the society between 1930 and 1936, led to the emergence of the National Employment Movement, a grass-roots organization, led by Elma Francois, Clement Payne, and others. Cipriani's leadership of moral outrage in the Legislative Council could not deal with the working people's problems of starvation and low wages. By 1936, the colonial authorities could tolerate Cipriani's "radical and defiant speeches" therefore he was no longer perceived to be a threat to the security of the colonial society. As a result, the working people had to turn elsewhere for leadership. Yet, Cipriani remains an important person and symbol in the society. His era marked the first phase of the political development of modern Trinidad and Tobago.
In 1936, Adrian Cola Rienzi and Uriah Buzz Butler led the TWA and formed the Trinidad Citizens' Party and Butler Citizens' Home Rule Party respectively. Butler's Home Rule Party, which demanded independence (home rule) from the British Empire quickly became the vanguard of the working people's struggle of T&T. In challenging the oil companies to provide better working conditions and increase wages to the oilfield workers, Butler's party sought to break the back of the colonial-capitalism social order. In such a setting, colonialism and capitalism were so intertwined that it was necessary to attack one to get at the other. Rienzi's party, put forward the concept of Afro-Indian political unity and argued that the struggle of India and Africa must be seen within the context of the larger struggle against imperialism, which called for the united efforts of both races. It is not too much to claim that Butler and Rienzi set the scene for Williams and the PNM by giving citizens a better sense of themselves and a better understanding of their power as people who controlled a valuable asset: their labour power.
The rise of PNM in 1955 represented the culmination of a process that began with Cipriani, Butler, Rienzi, and other freedom fighters. In a way, they were a preparation for Williams and the PNM. By this statement, I do not mean that Williams happened because Cipriani and Butler happened. I don't believe in the teleological unfolding of history towards some well-ordered end. I only mean to suggest that when Williams arrived on the scene he drew upon the social and political capital that was implanted in the society and thus, in the best sense, had the ability to exploit such capital. When he arrived-and I don't want to make him seem like a phantom descending upon the masses-he found a society that was aware of its possibilities and thus was willing to undertake the freedom project if only they were given the appropriate leadership. Even here I don't want to be too general since there are those who claim that Williams spoke primarily to and presumably for what they call "the Creole" masses and they are correct. It was these two different ideological perceptions of the world that caused the big buraha when Williams spoke about the recalcitrant nature of elements within the East Indian group when the results of the Federal elections came out in 1958. Although he made a gallant effort to soften the abrasive nature of the statement, it left a sour taste in the mouths of those who heard it.
Dr. Williams exploited the material he encountered. Some political thinkers and their followers are wont to make-and have been making-a big ado about what they call doctor politics. The sad truth is that no matter whatever potential a society possess it always takes leaders of extraordinary strength and vision, organizing capacity and stick-to-it-ive-ness to marshal those forces into action for the social good (or evil, as Hitler proved.) It is always the function of leadership to see how best (no pun intended here) people can organize in and for their interests, to make them buy into their ideals and to forward (as the Rastas would say) them into a realization of their humanity. Of course, possessing charisma never hurts. Creating a mystique around one's personality only adds to one's capacity to hold one's organization together. Here is where we see the colossal failure of James and Lloyd Best within the context of local politics. With the exception of the PNM, none of the political formations with which James was associated before he launched the Workers and Farmers' Party, ever attracted more than twenty-five followers. Best never did much better. Even we in NAEAP seem to be light years ahead of them in this regard.
Against this background, we can argue that modern Trinidad and Tobago came into itself with the arrival of Williams. Apart from capturing the progressive moment in time, he embodied the aspirations of his people as no one else did, understood their dreams as few could, spoke the people's language with authority and believed in their possibilities as no other leader did. On the one hand, the People's Democratic Party, led by Badase Sagan Maraj, really did not have much to offer the society to take them forward. It was simply an ethnic amalgamation that protected its own turf. On the other hand, Albert Gomes and the POPPG consisted of petty bourgeois and upper classes elements that tried to maintain their status and their privilege against what they saw as the onslaught of the African masses. During the first ten or fifteen years of its existence, PNM was in the vanguard of our history and represented the most progressive impulse of the nation.
Within the period 1946-56 the seeds of racial separation within the society began to show its ugly head despite the better efforts of persons such as Rienzi and even Gomes. It is safe to say that the "recalcitrant and hostile minority" of which Williams spoke and against which he had its origins in this period. Fueled by India's Independence of 1948, T& T Indians became a threat to the ethnic cohesion of the society. Gomes tells of the reception Dr. David Pitt, a candidate for elections, received at the hands of a local pundit in Penal because he opposed an Indian candidate. Speaking of the meeting between Dr. Pitt and the Indian leader, Gomes commented: "Well do I remember the finale of this grand comedy of errors. The pundit, eyes bulging and inflamed and face choleric with passion, seemingly lost for words in a paroxysm of sheer violent anger, exploded with 'Take Dr. Pitt and put him in the pit with the shit.'"
The Indian government, however, played a very sinister role in creating this ethnic divide when they entered Trinidad and Tobago to promote and consolidate East Indian ethnic solidarity PNM rescued when it was formed in 1956. Gomes, a member of the Executive Council at the time made the following observation:
When India achieved independence in 1948 the pageantry of extra-territorial patriotism exceeded itself in Trinidad. An Indian Commissioner appeared on the scene, appointed by the Government of India, obviously with the consent of Her Majesty's Government, but certainly not with the approval of any of the elected representatives of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. . . On the face of it the appointment looked suspiciously like gratuitous reinforcement of the general mischief of communal promotion. What else could a commissioner do, seeing that he would have all the time possible for idle hands?. . .
In the event my worst suspicions were confirmed when one of these diplomatic gentlemen proceeded to appoint himself leader of our Indian community and its political counsellor and organiser. On the surface, of course, it all seemed above board and in the cause of culture, but to my keen instinct the sinister purpose was unmistakable. Indian separatism was being sedulously fostered by India's diplomatic representative in our midst. . . . I was at the time in the vanguard of the efforts to achieve a consensus of all the British Caribbean territories on what has always seemed to me the sine qua non of West Indian nationhood, namely political federation. The divisive activities of Trinidad's Indian separatists cut straight across this ambition, since the Indians were being persuaded that federation would mean their total outnumbering by the Negroes, who were preponderant in the other territories.
Clearly Gomes had no love for the PNM. These words were written in 1974, long after he had departed the political scene. He had nothing to gain by expressing his truth as he saw it. Contrawise, there was no African ambassador or Commissioner to push a similar head of ethnic solidarity among Africans. Sometimes I wonder if the same behavior is not being displayed when the Indian Commissioner actively intervenes in our affairs, actively encourages the teaching of Hindu (and conduct such classes) and comes out and say that Panday is the best person to lead the India diaspora. Today, the present Indian Commissioner is leading efforts to build a Indian cultural center in Trinidad but that, I suppose, is what motherlands do for the children in their colonies. Today when I hear Indian separatist pushing for the creation of Indish, a separate part of the country for Indians, or the political union of the Indians in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Surinam one can only assume history is repeating itself.
Anyone who listens to Gomes realizes that PNM had to overcome the specter of Indian separatism and ethnic solidarity when it came into office in 1956. Of necessity, it had to stress interracial unity. This is why Dr. Williams was so hurt when a band of reactionaries began to prostitute the aspirations of the Indian nation. Norman Manley, the Prime Minister of Jamaica and the leader of the West Indian Federal Labour Party, was almost beside himself. He described Gomes as "an egregious ass having no more brains than the man in the moon" and the DLP "a combination of incompatibles, an oddly-matched people to consummate a marriage. . . strange bedfellows sleeping together but not knowing when they would fall off the bed." You would remember that another of that ilk promised "to sleep with the devil" to achieve the overthrow of the PNM. Panday's intimate confession revealed a trend that had a longer provenance.
Between 1956 and 1970, the most progressive era of the PNM, the "People's Charter" (1956), "Perspectives For Our Party" (1959), and the "Chaguaramas Declaration" (1970) were the most important documents that sought to chart the ideological direction of the nation; the first two being more ideological specific than the last. "The People's Charter," a statement of the fundamental principles of the party, argued that the root causes of the society's problems lay in the limitations of its constitution. In "Constitutional Reform in Trinidad and Tobago," Dr. Williams argued much more forcefully that our problems lay in the entire constitutional history of the society. The resolutions of the Bandung Conference held in Indonesia in April 1955 became the guiding principles of the new party. The "People's Charter" sought to provide "political inspiration and moral support for us in our struggle for self-determination" and offered a model of racial harmony for the newly formed political party. Its goal was the political independence of the nation.
"Perspectives for Our Party," delivered three years after "The Case for Party Politics," is one of Williams's most theoretical speeches. In this address, Williams identified three stages of the party's development and insisted that the time had come to organize the party so that "it lives political life of its own." Long before Maurice Bishop proclaimed it, Williams believe that the party should have both a political and theoretical leader. This obviously was an indication of James rather than Williams political orientation. Speaking of this collaboration in "Eric Williams and the Politics of Language," I wrote as follows:
In a strange way, this address reflected a culmination of yet another kind of partnership, the culmination of a process that started some thirty years previously at Queen's Park Royal College, Port of Spain, when Williams as a student and James as this teacher. Moreover, the views expressed in this address represented the theoretical results of a friendship and mentorship that were born in Trinidad, matured in Britain and the United States, and reached its apogee when James returned to the island in 1958-60. Indisputably, the thoughts contained in Perspectives for Our Party resulted from the fusion of Williams' and James's intellectual collaboration in that James's fingerprint can be seen throughout this document."
Undoubtedly, Williams placed his spin on these ideas to give it the Williams touch. Such collaboration, however, did not make Williams any less responsible for the content of the document. It only confirmed Williams' scholarly propensities to draw from any source that was likely to carry forward his project. He recognized where talent lay and used it for the party's benefit. This is why, in 1956, he took the first draft of the "People's Charter" to London where he discussed it with James, George Padmore and Arthur Lewis. Grace Lee, James's collaborator and a member of the Johnson-Forest Tendency, James's American party of the 1940s, writes that while she was in London in 1957, "Eric Williams visited often and told colorful stories about PNM struggles in Trinidad. Tom Mboya, Basil Davidson, et al. also came to lunch. [Kwame] Nkrumah came for the First Commonwealth Prime Minister's Conference attended by Third World independence leaders and we (James, Selma [James, James's third wife] Padmore, Williams and I spent an afternoon with him at Dorchester Hotel."
In an age where there were neither faxes nor CNN, such meetings were indispensable for getting the most up-to-date ideas about the challenges that faced these states and the problems they encountered in political and economic development. None of the other political parties had access to such a rich store of knowledge and talent. Nor, for that matter, did they have someone with Dr. Williams's capacity to make a quick a study and draw out the essence of the particular issue in which he was interested. These advantages allowed the PNM to keep up its intellectual and ideological superiority over all the other opposition parties at the time. While the latter acting out their neuroses publicly, PNM was drawing on the progressive tendencies of the age to consolidate its programs and its political base.
As bright as Dr. Williams was and as close as his association was with James, there were those in the party who resented James's enormous ability and his influence on Williams. As a politician and a political leader, Williams did not view with equanimity the attention the party was paying to James. Whatever the reason, James broke with Williams. Out of that break came Party Politics in the West Indies, an important source of some of the tensions that existed in the party and an articulation of the science of party organization.
Even in those early years, PNM began to loose its vitality. But if PNM had begun to slip, DLP had not even begun to ascend. Theirs was neither a rising nor a fading sun. No one in the amalgam of persons they brought together was capably of articulating a political philosophy in any serious sense of the term. But there were other ways to get around this limitation. PNM had a doctor. Therefore, they had to have a doctor too. So they went to England, got their doctor, but when they thought they had a political animal they wound up with an intellectual sophisticate who was so emotionally fragile that Williams branded him "a mad scientist." Although he was a man of talent, he was ill suited for the job of the political leadership of any party. By now, you know I am referring to Dr. Rudranath Capildeo. In Black Intellectuals Come to Power, Ivar Oxaal captures Capildeo's emotional fragility and the devastating consequence it would had on the DLP when he made the following observation:
On a lovely Sunday afternoon in October, 1961, I sat amongst a group of D.L.P. dignitaries while, on the platform a few feet away, Dr. Rudranath Capildeo cried out to a gathering of 30,000 East Indians standing on the Savannah to "arm yourselves with weapons and get ready to take over this country." A few weeks before, he had exhorted his followers to smash the voting machines which the PNM government was installing for the December elections. The dominant tone of the D.L.P. campaign was one of fear and hysteria; it was impossible for an outsider-as I was then-to comprehend the self-defeating tactics which Dr. Capildeo employed. It was evident, however, that there was a deep, non-rational bond between this troubled genius and his followers; but, like most non-Indians in Trinidad, the nature of that communion was obscure to me.
Quickly thereafter Capildeo returned to England and the dream of Indian ascendancy departed with him. Other than fear and hysteria, there was little in the form of a political program. Yet, as they moved into "Creole society," they would have to come to terms with all of these dis-alienating tendencies they had developed in their enclaves, a position that V. S. Naipaul developed in his novels.
However, there was something else at play in this drama of anxiety to which we do not give much consideration when we try to understand why the Indians took a while to develop a sophisticated, modern party formation. I had argued that none of the politicians ever paid any attention to the psychological liberation and how East Indian experiences, particular with their African brothers and sisters, shaped the psyche of their leaders. In probing further into Dr. Capildeo's behavior, Oxaal alerted us to an important aspect of Indian psychological development that we are much too afraid to examine.
There were few other Indian boys at Q.R.C. during the early Thirties [when Capildeo attended]. Out of 366 scholars enrolled during one year, 60 were of European descent, 6 were Indians, while the majority of the remainder were Negroes, largely sons of civil servants and professional families. Although his closest friend was a Negro, young Rudranath'' experiences with many Creoles were highly traumatic. To them he was the little Coolie boy from Chaguanas. Some Negro classmates, exercising what they implicitly believed was the Creole birthright, taunted and bullied him. . . His humiliation as "Coolie boy" was not limited to the sadism of his classmates, however, for even his teachers made occasional sport of his backwardness. Every Friday morning a course in religious knowledge was given by a spokesman for one of the island's many denominations. While waiting for this class to begin one morning, an instructor held up a ruler before the class and asked, "Tell me, Capildeo,--what is it you worship? Is this what you worship?" The slur at Hindu "idol worship" was much appreciated by the Christian scholars in the class.
Some may consider this example to be of little significance. However, growing up in Tacarigua and having Indian classmates, I know Africans were cruel to East Indians. We may claim that "all ah we live together happily as one family," and that might be true, but few ever ask how do these acts of insult and defamation affected an Indian's psychic development, what are their long-lasting consequences and how are we paying for such neglect? Dr. Capildeo acted the only way he knew how to act. He hit out at the Africans and told his followers to arm themselves. Some years ago when it was alleged that African men were raping East Indian women the same kind of hysteria filled the air. Yet, we have paid little attention to what can be called socio-psychological dimension of our political development and how such hysteria and fear work themselves out in the public sphere? From the standpoint of a non- psychologist, it seems to me that the slogan, "national unity," without examining the roots of our national dis-unity only covers up a rotting social sore that may rupture at any moment. As the African-American poet, Langston Hughes asks: "What happens to a dream deferred?"
But if the DLP were seething in a collective cauldron of wounded pride because they were left out of the national banquet, C. L. R. James saw his opportunity and formed the Workers and Farmers Party. It was at this moment that the erstwhile Basdeo Panday entered the political arena. Noting that "it is time for a change," the party argued that even though political independence was gained in 1962, "the economics of colonialism are still with us. The government now in power have done little to rid Trinidad and Tobago of this economic disease which impedes our development in every sphere." Yet, the Workers and Farmers Party failure lay in its lack of credibility and James' mis-understanding of the dynamics of the society. James who had praised Williams to the skies in Convention Appraisal (1960), a sketch of the life of Williams, could not be taken seriously when he accused PNM of mis-governance and the perpetuation of "a personality cult." Long before Lloyd Best spoke of "doctor politics," James had accused Williams of creating a personality cult. At least, James was consistent. In 1960, he sought to alert PNM of the elements that were cementing personality at the expense of program and party when he argued against "seeing everything too much in terms of personality . . . [and] perusing a particular point without reference to the total picture. Both are in reality examples of the same generic error: not keeping a proper balance the universal and the individual; the part and the whole." Yet, James had been away from the society too long and so the electorate was not familiar with him or his politics. Under the circumstances, he could not hope to overwhelm Eric Williams in an election.
Even though James and WFP were an election failure, James placed his finger on two of PNM's flaws: its excessive reliance on Dr. Williams's charisma and his growing arrogance. Their manifesto condemned Williams for castigating the "the blooming Church" and telling citizens "those who don't like it, [could] get to hell out of here." Meanwhile the Black Power revolts that had shaken the United States had its repercussion in Trinidad and Tobago. Out of that confluence came NAJAC which drew tremendous sympathy from the society but was unable to capitalize on his popularity at the political level. Like the Workers and Farmers' Party, they failed to attract any support when they entered the political arena. The same was true for the Tapia Movement. Drawing on this threat to his party, Williams would make his last theoretical gasps when he tried to make PNM relevant to the Black Power movement by publishing "The Chaguramas Declaration."
Of course, the Black Power disturbances threw up Macandal Daaga and Lloyd Best on the political stage. Some said they liked NAJAC's program but could not vote for them. But Best was the most compelling failure. Although he is a brilliant man, he just could not connect with the ordinary person. His party consisted mostly of petty bourgeois elements who seemed to be more concerned with displaying their individual brilliance than with the plight of ordinary persons. In fact, part of Best's tragedy is that he arrived when Williams was on the stage. Although he tried to match Williams' breadth of rhetoric (see for instance, "Regaining Humanity Lost"), the society could not accommodate Best and Williams at the same time. Best believed he was Williams' academic equal (and he might have been) but he could not really accept that the people would reject him so mercilessly even as they continued to adore Williams.
This is another example where personality and individual psychology play a much larger role in the archaeology of political knowledge than the articulation of any program or proposals. My dear Buddy, Oscar Gooding, who believed in Tapia's program, always felt that Tapia was the best thing for the society. Indeed, Tapia's "Green Beginning" sounded genuine enough when it declared: "There are concrete tasks to be undertaken in solving community problems: in education, in sport, in drama, in public affairs, in community improvement schemes. There are sou-sou investments clubs to be found and run; public baths and toilets, television and washing machine centres to be constructed; steelbands to be organized." Yet, surrounded by Williams' halo Best did not stand a chance. In fact, Williams so traumatized Best that even today, twenty-two years after Williams' death, never a week goes by without Best lambasting Dr. Williams and the PNM.
I will simply offer one theory to explain Best's behavior and which, incidentally, supports my argument that personality is a key ingredient to trying to understand why political players behave how they do. Sometimes, personality transcends programs; psychological complexity invalidates tidy empirical evidences; and historical accident trumps the orderly evolution of events. Thus, it can be argued that although Best thought he was as a political thinker, his was simply represented a rearguard action. In African Philosophy, Paulin Hountondji puts it this way:
The quest for originality is always bound up with a desire to show off. It has meaning only in relation to the Other, from whom one wishes to distinguish oneself at all costs. This is an ambiguous relationship, inasmuch as the assertion of one's difference goes hand in hand with a passionate urge to have it recognized by the Other. As this recognition is usually long in coming, the desire of the subject, caught in his own trap, grows increasingly hollow until it is completely alienated in a restless craving for the slightest gesture, the most cursory glance from the Other.
Perhaps Best had a psychological/political fixation on Williams. Whatever it was, Best's fate was tied inescapably to that of Williams and therein lay his misfortune. Today, his movement has degenerated to what I call the Tapia Ideological Mafia, trying to do in the public sphere via television and radio what they could not achieve on the political front.
By 1976, the electorate had begun to feel a sense of discomfort with PNM's arrogance and the hints of corruption and mismanagement that was taking place in its ranks. To be sure, that corruption was child's play to what took place during the reign of the UNC. However, for a party that promised morality in public affairs stealing from the public purse was not acceptable. Moreover, the entrenchment of the PNM in governance from 1956 to 1976 made them feel invincible and somewhat immune to public criticism. In this context the coming together of the United Labour Front promised a return to inter-racial solidarity and a chance to move away from the racial stasis that pervaded the social order. Whatever else ULF represented, it represented the combination of all of the forces who had become alienated from the government and had been trying for years to remove the PNM from power. It consisted of all of PNM's known enemies: Panday; A. N. R. Robinson (Democratic Labour Front), and Lloyd Best (Tapia House Movement). Joe Young, George Weekes and Raffique Shah represented the labour elements in this formation.
In 1986, the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) brought together various forces that conspired to remove the PNM since 1956. The victory of this formation, a party of parties as it were, presented the specter of two man-rate living in the same hole. Given the sizes of their respective egos, it was difficult for these strong willed men to live together for any length of time. At any rate, if gave the country an opportunity to see Mr. Robinson at work and a chance to judge his skills. Although many spoke of his imperial manner, Robinson undertook the economic and fiscal management of the society. His government had to deal with the IMF, Debt Repayment and Debt Restructuring, the divestment of the State enterprises and the ten per cent reduction of the salaries of the Public Sector, a decision that hurt the most. In the process, the rhythm of the society was interrupted by the first attempted coup-de-etat the country ever saw.
The politics of NAR and the struggle between Panday and Robinson for ascendancy was of enormous political interest. In 1986 when the election was called many thought Robinson's leadership ensured he would be the PM if NAR won the election. However, Panday was the first to remind the country that the leader of the party would not necessarily be selected as the Prime Minister of the country. Panday's calculation was that if the NAR managed to win about 20 seats he would control the tradition Indian seats (about12 constituencies) and ONR and DAC would have won about 8 to ten seats which would have given him a majority in the NAR caucus. Such a calculus would have assured his ascension to the Prime Ministership even though he was not the political leader of the party. When the electorate surprised everyone by voting 33 to 3 in favor of NAR, Panday was more saddened by victory than he was when he was defeated previously. Even though he had won an election he has lost the prize he sought.
It was only a matter of a time before the party of parties divided into its individual parts again. In his un-wisdom, Mr. Robinson felt that Beau, the beautiful one, Tewarie would bring home the Indian vote and that he would be dispensed with Panday forever. As Tewarie discovered in 1991 and Ramesh and Trevor Sudama found out in 2001, without Panday's endorsement, one's individual charm or prior service meant little to the East Indian electorate. In Hindu theological practice, the "Bhai" meant everything to the sense and sensibility of the Indians. Ideas and past services counted for little. The only necessary criterion was one's perceived loyalty or disloyalty to Mr. Panday. To be denounced as a nimacaran by Panday was a sure road to one's political demise. It had nothing to do with philosophy; political persuasion or religious belief. Panday is the boss. What he says goes. To be fair, in his heyday, Williams held a similar sway among the PNM voters. He is reputed to have said, "If I say come; you come. If I say go, you goeth." If he put up a crapaud for election, the crapaud would be victorious. Both men assumed the same messianic qualities to their core audiences.
As we attempt to locate the importance of Panday and ULF, Michel Foucault affirmation is an important point of departure. He says: "the history of a concept is not wholly and entirely that of its progressive refinements, its continuously increasing rationality, its abstraction gradient, but that of its various fields of constitution and validity, that of successive rules of use, that of the many theoretical contexts in which it developed and matured." In this sense, ascendance of Panday and the ULF had little to do with a clear-cut rationality or election program. Panday had neither the intellectual apparatus of Dr. Williams nor the long-winded, polysyllabic exuberance of Best. Instead, he possessed all the characteristics of the chameleon. He could change his course to suit any direction in which the wind is blowing. He was ready to sleep with the devil if that helped to achieve his objective. While he was in office, he could call the teachers criminals but then point to the callous manner the current office holders treat a contingent of those criminals in Arima.
As fortuitous as Panday ascendancy was, it signified an important milestone in the political and social history of the nation. It marked a period when East Indians were brought formally into the body social and completed a process of inclusion that started in 1958. Although he may have had little control over the process, the dynamic of the social mix pushed him to integrate his Cabinet in ways that he might not have envisaged. This did not prevent the party from looking out for its own at the expense of other elements of the society. When the break came within his ranks, it had little to do with corruption as Ramesh Maharaj and Ralph Maraj claimed. It had more to with UNC being captured by external forces that were not necessarily consistent with the hegemony of Indian rule. When the history of this period is written, UNC's corruption or alleged corruption would pale into obscurity. It would be seen as the time when our East Indian brothers and sisters became full citizens of the society.
In trying to describe the UNC political moment, one is faced with what can be called the evolution of the pragmatic thrust in the society. In The Metaphysical Club (2001), Louis Menand showed the powerful impact of the American Civil War on the making of intellectual giants such as John Dewey, Oliver Wendell Holmes Charles Sanders Peirce and William James. His work demonstrates how events shaped the philosophies of these historical players without their necessarily being aware of these factors. In A History of Britain, Simon Schama demonstrates how events shaped scholars such as John Locke and Adam Smith and politicians such as Oliver Cromwell and Robert Walpole. Although I do not place Panday in such exalted company, he, too, was shaped by events that were not entirely of his own making but which he exploited with dexterity and abandon. Like Walpole, we might say of Panday: "He had been lucky, not prescient." In other words, within the context of modern Trinbagonian politics, Panday must be seen as the political pragmatist, par excellence. His survival capacity remains inexhaustible.
In the end, we can say that the most important moments in T&T's political history were the time of TWA, Butler's Home Rule Party, PNM, NAR and the ULF. The most important political personalities were Cipriani, Butler, Williams, Panday and Robinson, the latter using his presidency in an unprecedented manner to carry forward and enhance his political legacy. Of the two figures alive, Panday remains the ultimate pragmatist, working without a plan or a program but guided by instinct. Robinson, we can argue, gave the office of the Presidency a new status in that he seemed to suggest that in times of trouble the President must be the ultimate bulwark of national integrity.
Today, we are at the edge of a new political problematic. It demands an act of statesmanship on Panday's part in very much the same way that Albert Gore grudgingly gave way to George Bush in the furtherance of national unity. So, too, must Panday give way to Manning in the cause of national unity. Despite the discrepancies that existed in the last US elections, Gore realized that maintaining the wholeness of the nation was more important than any of his private desires. The Supreme Court spoke and he had to listen. In the event of a tied election or the death of the Prime Minister, our constitution calls for the President to determine the new President. We may not like his choice but a statesperson abide by that decision. Only such acceptance can guarantee the sanctity of national order and create the necessary social, civic and intellectual capital that is so necessary for our development. Our leaders, be they teachers, lawyers, doctors, or politicians, must invest in these assets to ensure the growth of the society.
As per usual, we will have to back back into a solution of our present crisis. If the political and social legacy of the 19th century seems somewhat incoherent, then the 20th century looks a bit more ordered in that one can to locate a different kind of rationality and a more systematic foundation for a new social order. How we move into this new order depends in part upon the structures we put in place and the social, political and intellectual capital we leave to our off spring.
In spite of all of our problems, we did not do such a bad job. We enter this century more unified and more conscious of what it means to be a Trinbagonian. If only we would utilize them, I believe that we have all the tools at our disposal to leave our society a better place than we found it.
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