Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Rise of Nationalism in the Caribbean

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
May 01, 2010


  1. It is no accident that Jamaica should have been the first English -speaking Caribbean country to gain independence in 1962. Jamaica's geographic size, historical antiquity (colonized by the Euro-British in 1655), population size re other Caribbean countries, leading bauxite producer and scene of violent slave revolts have given Jamaica a paramount position in Euro-British colonial history and the de-colonization process.
  2. Ergo, Caribbean political leadership has been assigned to Jamaica.
  3. Decades of the 1930s introduced a more radical, more socially oriented cause/genre of politics.
  4. The new pre-occupation was the "condition of the people"---the colonized, redundant lumpen proletariat.
  5. Norman Manley formed Jamaica Welfare Community Development scheme in 1937.
  6. Jamaica Union of Teachers (JUT) and Jamaica's Agricultural Society (JAS) were established as "organs of the little man."
  7. Protests by middle- class Jamaicans initiated the formation of the Jamaica Progressive League which was the fore -runner of the People's National Party (PNP). Originally a reformist party, the PNP wanted "to mend not end, the system" of Euro- British colonialism as its original political stance. The PNP only wanted self-government within the Euro-British Commonwealth.
  8. Impact of Garveyism
    1. UNIA
    2. Launched People's Political Party (PPP) in 1929.
    3. The PPP emphasized the bankruptcy of the rule of the Crown colony system of governance.
    4. Working class consciousness emerges.
    5. "Back to Afrika" movement.
    6. "Afrika for Afrikans at Home and Abroad."
    7. August 1920 resolution re designation Red, Black and Green as the official colors of the Afrikan liberation struggle.
    8. 1938 period generated working class militancy.
    9. Alexander Bustamente's Industrial Trade Union (BTTU) became Jamaica Labor Party (JLP). PNP formed in 1938. Jamaica Communist Party was headed by Dr. Trevor Monroe.
    10. PNP became socialist under Michael Manley (son of Norman Manley) in November 1974 re Democratic Socialism. The JLP remained the "defender of Capitalism". Jamaica under Prime Minister Edward Seaga became the defender of Reaganomics.

      PNP JLP
      Norman Manley Alexander Bustamante
      Michael Manley Edward Seaga
      P.J. Patterson Bruce Golding
      Portia Simpson Brown  

    11. Jamaica's referendum 19 September 1961 precipitated the collapse of the W.I. Federation and was the catalyst for Jamaica's political independence drive in 1962.
  9. Adult suffrage was granted to the colonized in Jamaica in 1944.

Jamaica joined United Nations in 1962 and the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1969.

Trinidad and Tobago (T&T)

  1. T&T has played a lesser role in shaping Caribbean image/ identity/ leadership compared to Jamaica.
  2. Emergence of national consciousness begins with Captain Andrew Arthur Cipriani ---French Creole of Corsican ancestry.
  3. Cipriani was Mayor of Port-of-Spain, an elected member in the Euro- British Colonial Legislative Council; he formed the Workingmen's Association which later became Trinidad Labour Party.
  4. He led the masses in overt opposition to Euro-British Colonialism. His historical claim to fame/ title is "Champion of the barefoot man." His motto: "Agitate, Educate, Confederate"
  5. Cipriani believed in the ultimate moral righteousness of the Euro-British Empire and of the English governing class. He tried to be a British empire client and a Caribbean patriot at the same time.
  6. After 1938, more militant radical leadership replaced Cipriani's reactionary and conservative politics.
  7. Universal Adult Suffrage was granted to the colonized in T&T in 1946.
  8. Uriah "Buzz" Butler formed the Political Progress Group to liberate the masses/ proletariat from the yoke of Euro-British colonialism. He engaged in fierce anti-colonial politics.
  9. In the period of the early 1950s, Bhadase Sagan Maraj became president of the powerful Hindu organization, the Sanatan Dharma Mahasabba and transformed major sections of the sugar belt into a potent ethnic voting bloc.
  10. From 1950-56, the Party of Political Progress Groups (POPPG) was led by Albert Gomes – trade unionist and was the leading politician in T&T at that time.
  11. The Euro-colonial constitution of 1950 established the principle of ministerial responsibility in the hands of elected politicians. In September 1956 general elections, PNM received 39% of the votes but that did not represent a majority. The PNM won 14 out of 24 seats up for elections. PNM defeated the POPPG, Butler's party and Maraj's People's Democratic Party (PDP).
    In order to achieve a majority in the legislature, the Euro-British Governor Edward Beetham and the Colonial Office appointed two (2) nominated members to the legislative who were loyal to the PNM. This gave the PNM a 16 – majority seat in the legislature.
  12. The PNM was formed in January 1956. Motto: "Magnum Est PNM; Et Pravalebit" – "Great is the PNM and It shall Prevail."
  13. Dr. Eric Williams' legacy:
    1. "Massa Day Done"
    2. "University of Wood Ford Square"
    3. "Doctor politics"
    4. Cabinet system in 1959.
    5. As premier, he brought style, unity, professionalism and intellect to T&T politics.
    6. He vowed to end the economic status of the Caribbean as a satellite economy of the United States and fought for a strong central government.
  14. The struggle for Chaguaramas Naval Base became Williams' symbol of indigenous nationalism. He led the famous "march in the rain on 22nd April 1960" to take back Chaguaramas. In 1941, Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Britain signed a 99-year lease with United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the base and on air force base at Cumuto re-named Waller field.
  15. The Indian-Trinidadian power structure brought Dr. Rudranath Capildeo--- mathematician, scientist, lawyer and instructor at the University of London to oppose Dr. Eric Williams in T&T. Dr. Capildeo led the Democratic Labour Party (DLP).
  16. After Jamaica withdrew from the W.I. Federation in September 1961, Dr. Williams uttered his famous words: "one from ten leaves naught" and proceeded on the path to T&T's political independence on 31 August 1962. Motto: "Together we aspire; Together we achieve" Trinidad and Tobago became a Republic on 24 September 1976; joined the United Nations in 1962 and the Oganization of American States (OAS) in 1967.
  17. Independence transition:
    Euro-British colonial governance
    Chief Minister
    Prime Minister


  1. Barbados is "an English market town" – an almost pure sugar plantation economy preserved more completely than any other Caribbean country.
  2. It embraces an "entrenched system of racialist prejudice."
  3. Barbados is noted for overt conservatism, hence, its title "Little England."
  4. Social Structure:
    At the top: White economic oligarchy.
    In the middle: Various grades, clearly demarcated by income indices of the middle class.
    At the bottom: Heavily Black lumpen proletariat.
  5. In this socio-culture, each group lives away from the other thereby feeding the distrust with gross stereotypes that they had of each other. This was the paradigm of "Barbados' Apartheid."
  6. This overt Apartheid modus operandi was compounded by a class-prejudiced and class-ordered education system. The sole purpose of primary education in Barbados was "to create an obedient and honest working class"
  7. After 1937-38 riots, Grantley Adams formed Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and Barbados Workers Union in 1941. They fought for a single economic cause instead for a complete reconstruction of Barbadian life.
  8. Premier Errol Barrow's Democratic Labour Party (DLP) sought less to socialize the economy than to modernize it.
  9. Premier Errol Barrow broke with the BLP in 1955 and created the Democratic Labour Party 1956.
  10. The DLP won three consecutive electoral victories under Errol Barrow in 1961, 1966 and 1971 but lost in 1976 and 1981 to the BLP. Errol Barrow became Barbados' first independence Prime Minister in 1966.
  11. Barrow was viewed as "leader of the nation, father of independence, a national hero and a man of the people."
  12. He believed in the Euro-British colonial constitutional and political systems/order.
  13. Barrow did not appeal to the working class in class terms but rather in nationalist-populist terms.
  14. He made the inclusion of the masses a central plank in his party's modernization strategy. He became a role model and agent of transformation.
  15. He fought for racial justice and de-colonization.
  16. He used his anti-imperialist rhetoric to good purpose by criticizing imperialism while upholding bourgeois values.
  17. Errol Barrow gained popularity with the masses by restructuring racial privileges and connecting his populist credentials.
  18. Barrow's public order Act of 1970 was the turning point in his popularity among the Black masses. The Act made it illegal to preach racial hatred and violence; it restricted civil liberties.
  19. Errol Barrow allowed Kwame Ture to enter Barbados after entry to Trinidad – the Land of his birth, was denied by Dr. Eric Williams.
  20. He used the Act to silence grassroots opposition which he saw as a potential threat to the DLP government and political stability.
  21. He followed Keynenian economic social deficit spending.
  22. Errol Barrow's legacy: "the general public had a moral duty and an ethical responsibility to standpoint corruption, bribery, abuse of power."


  1. Guyana refused to participate in the W.I. Federation.
  2. In the late 1930s, the British Guiana Labour Union and British Guiana Workers' Union demanded a minimum wage, a contributory old age pension scheme, slum clearance, eight-hour work day and security of tenure for estate workers.
  3. The 1950 bi-racial People's Progressive Party (PPP) replaced the East Indian Association and League of Coloured Peoples.
  4. PPP was interested in total transfer of power from the Euro-British government---de-colonization.
  5. Forbes Burnham became "maximum leader" – accused of directorship and authoritarianism.
  6. In 1953, the PPP won 51% of the popular vote and captured 18 out of 24 seats in parliament.
  7. Both Britain and the United States quickly grew wary of Cheddi Jagan's socialist/communist aspirations, his radical rhetoric against colonialism and imperialism. This scenario was at the height of the Cold War and Mc Carthyism in the United States. American-British collusion under Winston Churchill led to the suspension of the Guyanese constitution just 135 days after the 1953 general elections. Unites States President John F. Kennedy preferred Forbes Burnham as Prime Minister of an independent Guyana.
  8. In 1955, Burnham formed the People's National Congress (PNC).
  9. Burnham claimed to be socialist.
  10. Guyana's politics became explicitly radicalized.
  11. Burnham was a "people's lawyer" – he drew strength from the working class-redundant lumpen proletariat. He argued that his government was dedicated to transferring economic power to the masses and their representatives and set as its goal the attainment of social justice.
  12. Burnham understood the language of populism – he got the people to believe that he was working on their behalf.
  13. He identified the Co-operative as the instrument for making the little man, a real man -- "Co-operative Socialism."
  14. He tolerated no challenge to his rule from within or outside the UNC; he demanded loyalty from the armed forces. Military spending was significant under Burnham.
  15. Dr.Walter Rodney's Working People's Alliance (WPA) was the most spirited challenge to Burnham's rule. Dr. Rodney was assassinated on 13 June 1980.
  16. Forbes Burnham's legacy: "The party must assume primacy in the affairs of the State"
  17. Guyana became independent on 26 May 1966; a Republic on 23 February 1970.
  18. United States rigged the December 1964 general elections via labor unions to ensure that Forbes Burnham was the victor on the road to political independence and to defeat Cheddi Jagan – an avowed Marxist.

Guyana joined the United Nations in 1966 and Organization of American States (OAS) in 1991.


Allahar,A.L. (ed.). (2001). Caribbean Charisma: Reflections on Leadership, legitimacy and Populist Politics.

Lewis, G.K. (1968). The Growth of the Modern West Indies.

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.

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