Title: Some reflections on the leading intellectual currents that have shaped the Caribbean experience 1950-84
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/CA00400034/00001
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Title: Some reflections on the leading intellectual currents that have shaped the Caribbean experience 1950-84
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Lewis, Gordon K.
English ( Contributor )
Jones-Hendrickson, S.B. (Simon B.) ( Contributor )
Affiliation: University of Puerto Rico
Publisher: Caribbean Studies Association
Publication Date: 1984
Subject: Caribbean   ( lcsh )
Spatial Coverage: Caribbean
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Bibliographic ID: CA00400034
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Caribbean Studies Association
Holding Location: Caribbean Studies Association
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Gordon K. Lewis

S0l. RlEFLsC'IOIOS Oil 'hr.
l.CALIvGI I11hCV'iTUAl CUmx;j'lS
i'idAl' IAi SiaPL D i'il Cilutiijb1Us
hAPbitI NCb 1950-84.

Uordon A. Lewis

University of Puerto hico

for the annuo. meeting of
the Caribbean t'.diies association
St uitts-levis
I-ay-June 1984

Men, everywhere, behave in large part in response to the

conceptions that they carry in their minds of the world around them; those

conceptions become ideologies, belief systems, as wel] as the motivating

engines of behavior and action. In the caribbean of the last 2b years or

so, it is plausiole to identify three such belief systems that have indeed

swept over the region with all of the force of a tropical hurricane, in

their philosophical foundations, they are distinct from each other; yet each

one of them has interpenetrated with the others, forming a general pattern.

ihey are: (i) anti-colonial and post-colonial nationalism, (2) black power

and negritude, and (3) marxism-Leinnism. Al of them, of course, have appeared

in conjunction with certain, identifiable political and social movements:

nationalism with the advent, especially in the P.nglish-speaking Cariboean,

of formal political independence; black Power-negrtitude with tne impact,

particularly, of the U6 olack power and civil rights movements in the region;

and marxism-Leninism with the impact of the Cuban Revolution of 19o9.

^Al of these three intellectual-moral movements have in fact

transformed the modern Garibbean. ihey have altered, irretrievably, what

Alfred "orth v'hitehead, speaking in more general terms, has called the

'climate of opinion' that exists at any given moment in any given society.

ihey nave (2reatea a whole new set of Wxpectations in the Cariobean peoples,

ana not just simply in the so-called 'intelligentsia' or 'elites' of the region.

Loday, in the 1980s, they are ideas that are 'in the air'. 'hey are at once

the causative motivating factor ana the phenomenolgical expression of all of

the moemtnus socio-econoraic-political processes that have taken place in the

region as a whole: industrialisation, urbanisation, social-class

transformation, political revolution, and the rest.

io one who knew the region then, twenty five years ago, and now, in the

1980s, cannot but have seen and appreciated the changes wrought by these

processes. I myself first came to the region in the summer of 1949, when ir.

Fedro tunoz-Amatb, then dean of the Uollege of Social Ociences at the

University of Puerto ^ico, invited me to teach a summer class in Rio Piecras,

and then, a little later, as a quanent resident at the same university in

19oo. At that time, the Cariboean region had about it a deceptive air of

quiet somnolence; there was little to indicate that it was on the eve of

deep structural and mental transformations. Iuerto Iico was beginning the

changes brought about, later, by the Populares of wnoz-briarin, but was still

a decaying 'sugar island.' Cuba was still obsessed, in its peoples, with

what Juan bosch, in his book of 19ob on Cuba, called a headlong rishi

in the pursuit of tropicall hedonism. both aiti and the uominican

Republic seemed content and 'stable' under their respective creole

dictaroiral regimes---duvalerisme and trujillismo. 'he british rVest

indies seemed to be what they had always been since Emancipation a century
earlier---backwater british colonies trapped in an atmosphere of mental

colonial dependency, accepting their traditional role of schoolchildren

graduating in the school of "ritish colonial attitudes. This was all in

all, the Uariobean, say of Patrick Leigh-Fermor's fraveller's free, in

which a preceptive outside traveller could wander through the region and

continue to be astonished at its tropical quietude, not noticing any

signs of impending change. Un any showing, the tranfornmations wrought

during the decades after that have been deep and indeed traumatic.


All of these changes have been studied and annotated by a veritable

avalanche of Caribbean Studies literature in the latt thiirty years, and

especially by the academic empire of the social scientists. if ever there was

an overworked social-sciences laboratory, the modern Gariboean nas been it.

Yet ic is open to question as to whether all of that academic literauture

has answered the crucial question: with all of those changes, are the Garibbean

peoples basically any happier today than they were in the immediate post-1946

period? &his is a question not of the quantitative measurement of human

hopes and aspirations but of the qualitative estimate of the total moral and

nature of mouern-day Caribbean life and experience. -Vhat we badly heed are

studies comparable to the seminal books that the english social historians,

.arbara and J.1. Lammond, wrote a generation or more ago on the price that

the english people had to pay, between 1760 and 1840, for the triumph of the

Industrial ^evolution. Until we have 4awork done we shall not be able to

determine a credit and debit balance sheet for the transformational changes that

have taken place in the (aribbean region in the last thirty years.

0 0 0

Onort of that, however, it seems worthwhile to take a close look at the

nature of the three major idea systems, noted above, tnat have nelped

accelerate those changes; to look, specifically, at their relative

strengths ana weaknesses.

Anticolonial nationalism

&he work of Vendel' Dell and his associates has

amply shown how the rise of nationalism, accompanied in the rising

nationalist elites by considerations of social justice ana equity in the

distribution of the nationalwealth, became the major feature of the post-

war scene. It was made possible by the decline of the British empire, the

advent of universal suffrage, the growing democratisation of political and

governmental life, the rise of popular-based political parties, and,

therefore, the steady growth of mass participation in the national life.

In institutional terms, it brought about formal national inaependence

ani tGhe restructuring of national governmental systems in response to the

new and pressing needs of nationhood. Jr ideological terns, it was at once

cause and effect of a rising national consciousness, much of which,

especially in older states like Cuba, oanto nomingo, and naiti, had its

roots in the earlier nrit'*rialist strug[Ges of t, U 11th cern urn,. Ine emotive

power of tiinal nationalist. is evident---to teke a single example only---

in the case of Puerto ^ico, where, despite the fact that the struggle has

not yet ended in formal national sover.ignty, a strong pervasive sense of

national identity, of being a separate kuerto icican family, still prevails.

A11 this was positive and creative. It recognized the truth of Tenin's

aictum that you cannot solve the social question until you have first solved

the national question. but, in retraqpect, it is easy to see that much of

it has been regressive and negative. nationalism can be conflictive as well

as creative. it can encourage a narrow-minded 'my country right or wrong'

atttiude in both leaders and electorates. Especially in small mini-states

as in the Iaribbean it can give rise to an inward-turned, psychologically

crippling insularity of temper, mixed with feelings of suspicion and

jealousy for neighboring countries. it can persuade governments, in their

national economic policies, to embrace protectionist policies, thus

jeopardising regional econor:ic integration. It also burdens them with a

whole set of the paraphernalia of sovereignty which is cumbersome and costly.

ihe history of the failure of the Vtest indies Federation (19b8 -1962) and

the current problems of the Cariobean Economic Cor.iunity (CARICOL) provide

ample evidence of these negative aspects of nationalism as credo.

iven more. As lenin's dictum implied, national sovereign independence

is necessary, if only because it clears the deck, so to speak, for national

governments to move forward to planning solutions to the social question---

social equity, full employment, social service needs etc---without being

oothered with the old quarrelsome relationship with the 'mother country'. but

by no account does all that solve the social question, Ihe work of the

anthropologists and sociologists in Caribbean studies in the last twenty five

years or so shows the persistent continuation of these societies as class

societies, with power flowing to certain aomnnant groups because of their

ownership of the means of production (socialist Cuba excepted). From the

Dahamas to the Guianas, indeed, the victory of nationalism, in many ways, has

really meant that, in internal domestic social structures, the old white

colonial masters have been replaced by a new black-brown oligarchy in these

successor states. A whole new state system, reinforced by the new role of

independent governments as employer in the enlarged public service sector,

emerges,providing employment and status for the new rising black-brown

bourgposie, whose new consumaerist affluence almost begins to match the

ostentatious wealth of its predecessors, the old colonial ''ree coloreds' or

eens de couleur. nationalism ,i n brief, serves narrow class interest.

Aenre the rise of revolutionary groups ana parties demanding a second

independence, which will be social instead of merely political. it underlines

what Louis Lindsay has called the 'myth of independence,'

nationalism has also shown its weaknesses at the level of regional

considerations. In the Uaribbean-Lentral America area we live in a region

in which only the region itself is the sane and sensible unit of planning;

just as, on the global scale, we live in a world in which only the world

itself is the sane and sensible unit of planning. Nationalism, especially

in its political manifestations, stands as an obstacle to the growth of a

healthy regionalism. Examples abound to prove the urgent need for the regional

approach, it makes little sense, for example, that in the regional tourist

industry at any given moment there are too many beds and too few tourists in

San Juan and too few beds and too many tourists in bt. iaarten. he growth

of a fiscally viable regional carrier in the field of civil aviation is

seriously hampered by national governments developing their own single

national carrier, frequently for non-economic reasons of national pride and

preatige (Just as in the ancietworld the Pharoahs built their paramide to

conmimmorate ruling class megalomania). Or, again, (speaking of the Caribbean

as one of the most heavily-trafficked oil transportation routes in the world),

an oil spill along the dimensions of a forrey Canypn episode can spoil overni&h-

the beaches of half a dozen islands; obviously, only a concerted regional

safety and conservation plan can meet such a problem. ihe same lesson applies

to the problem of regional collective security, as the 1983 "renada episode

surely proves. Lhe very tissue of war or peace in the region is involved here.
AH this, I suggest, leads to is;-fundamental considerations. First,

the planners of tne next twenty five years must address themselves to the

organisation of what might be called a functional federalism. by nat i mean

the creative invention of institutional mechanisms for regional cooperation

rooted in oasic, limited common purposes in which all participating governments

have a ready, practical interest, it means a regional planning of immigration

and emigration patterns, so that the idle hands of barbaaos can be recruited to

develop the idle lands of Dominica. it means a reLional food plan oasea on

the principle of the natural division of labor and resources, so that Uuyana

or Cuba becomes the rice bowl of the region and 6anto Domingo or "arbados the

sugar bowl of the region, it means intergovernmental cooperation in the field

of planned industrial-technological advancement, if only to prevent the

growth of white elephants like the steel-natural gas Point Tisas complex in

lrinidad. It means a serious regional assualt upon the problem of the

regional drug traffic, in cooperation with other concerned governments like

the Ub and Colombia, in order to control what is rapidly becoming a situation

were too many of the regional societies are becor.ing, in grim truth, drug

cultures, it means sustaining and indeed expanding the role of the already

existing regional institutions, in both the private and public sectors: the

University of the "est indies, Cal~GOM, the Garibbean Conference of Churchese

perhaps most important and urgent of all, it means meaningul coopelation in

the general field of planned economic growth and development, so that the

present practices of 'enforced bilateralism', whereby individual governments

compete murder
the leading industrial nations, and the multinational business corporations,

can be slowly replaced by a genuine multilateralism. his sort of functional

federalism, it should be stressed, is based on interest, not on any romantic

ideas of a united federation or confederation, in political terms (such as

argued for, for example, by C|.aR ames in his naive introduction, nThe birth of

a Nation', to Susan Craig's recently published A Sociological Aeader). ouch

grandiose schemes smack of roaanyic utopia-mongering, for they completely

overlook the fact that there does not exist at the moment, or indeed for any

foreseeable future, any grand overriding community of interests between, say,

capitalist fuerto Aico and socialist Guba, or between authoritarian haiti

and democratic Jamaica. We face a condition, not a theory.

Secondly, tnere is the general consideration ---in more specific

theoretics' terms, and whicn particularly must concern the political

scientists--- that it is now abundantly clear tnat the great age of the

modern nation-state, starting with the reformation and the Aenaissance, has

come to an end. Its political boundaries are irrational, for all of the

problems of this new age transcend those boundaries, most of al', of course,

the problem of meeting the threat of the nuclear holocaust. ,e must, then,

recognize the obsolescence of the nation-state, whether it is tne United

States or St Aitts-ihevis. XVe must search for new, radical forms of nurnan

organisation that separate state from nation.

'hira, all of bnis must be played within the framework of tne more
ppychlogical aspects of nationalism. ione of the above is meant to overlook the
fact that, numan nature being what it is, nationalism, as an emotional thing,

remains an important factor in human behavior. out it co-exists within

concentric circles of other loyalties: to family, to associations, to the

region, to tne world as a whole. ihey need not be in conflict with each

other; indeed, they complement each other. it is surely not unreasonable to

nope that the na-ionalist spirit will, hopefully, express itself less ana less

in political and economic terms and more and more in social ana cultural

terms. ie do not have to compete as political actors in the international

anarchy; and we should compete more and more, and with more sanity, in, say,

the ran-American Games or the Caribbean Lrames.

black kower, negritude etc.

'he second driving force in the Cariboean since

Yvorld OVar Xwo has been that of a rising ethnic consciousness, especially in

the Caribbean populations ,of African descent. It goes back to the pre-

negritude writers of Guba and haiti in the 19th century, and to movements like

that of -arveyism in the English-speaking Caribbean. In part, it has been

religious in inspiration: the US civil-rights movement, that has had such

an impact in the LVest indies, has been led, from Martin luther King to Jesse

Jackson, by the prototype of the black preacher. In part, it has been

political, as is evident in (-esaire s noirisme and canon's anti-colonialism.

Any summing-up of its presence in the contemporary Caribbean must

emphasis a number of points. it has been, on any showing, an immensely

liberating force. its slogans---'black is beautiful', pouvoir aux noirs---

have expressed a new pride in being black, a new awareness of the African

heritage, a new race consciousness as denial of the old European racial

stereotypes, a new interest in black history. Wherever one looks--- the

poetry of kales iatos and 6esaire, the essays of 'uouard Glissant, the

histories of 'ames, oodney, viilliams, 1fouchard, the musicology of 'rinidad

carnival, the cosmology of Rastafari, the woek of Fanon on the Algerian
the reggae of Bob 1arley,
revolution, the emergence of black theater---there is rich evidence of

a new Afro-American cultural renaissance. hor is all this just a revolution

in the thinking of the elites, as was, perhaps, the earlier narlem

Renaissance, for it has seeped down into the consciousness of the regional

peoples. it is not too much to say that there has taken place a veritable

revolution of thought and spirit in which the whole imagery of the world

has been changed, redressing the old imbalance between the white race and

t r C-s the non-white races. It was a redressing envisaged by

Pdmund burke in a prophetic passage of his great speech of May 7, 1789,

against Varren hastings: "Today," he said, "the Commons of Ureat Britain

prosecute the delinquents of India. tomorrow the delinquents of Inaia may

be the Commuons of Ureat Britain." It is almost as if we have now witnessed

the fulfilment of that prophecy.

The hazards of the race-color issue arising out of these movements

have already received attention in the theoretical literature. there is the

danger that the emphasis on the race-color concept may overlook its

relationships with the other concept of social class, so that class conflict

becomes obscured and sometimes mystified by ethnic differentiation. For
all Caribbean ethnic groups are socially stratfied. Failing to perceive that

distinction, 'black power' has only too often become a slogan for the

elevation to power of a black bourgeoisie, no more neccesarily better

masters than the white bourgeoisie they have replaced; indeed, because they

understand the psychology of 'their' people better than the whites they may

be thereby enabled to turn the screw of classoppression even more tightly.

Here is the further problem that in the more pluralist of the region's

societies appeal to blackness may simply aggravate the social war between

blacks and other non-white groups; the Trinidad press, for example, is

frequently full of angry letters from Last Indian readers denying that they

can be classified as 'black.' it might even be argued, going beyond this,

that for the lower-class submerged masses the problems of social security

and economic survival may be more pressing than that of ethnic identity; and

ic might perhaps even be suggested that the problem of 'identity' that

agitates, say, a poet like "erek aalcott may be a function of a small

middle class echelon, might indeed be an invention of the intelligentsia.

The problem has been discussed, with particular reference to

negritude, in a perceptive essay by Kene Iepestre. here are, ie argues,

different forms of negritude, leftwing, progressive, and rightwinp. So,

just as Senghor s version is rightwing in its ahistorical view of an

immutable Aegro essence, that of duvalierisme is an irrational, mystit,

and reactionary dogma used to justify a tyrannical regime. it is, in truth,

the degradation of the black dogma. It asserts that the biology of a racial

group determines its psychology, which in turn determines its collective

personality; an ancestral heredity transmits the racial psychology intact

from one generation to another. it is the predestined task of the black

elite intelligentsia, thus, to guide and nurture the masses, thus creating

a marriage between race and culture. Culture, in this sense, becomes the

secret weapon that facilitates a mystic fusion of class ajd race. As

nurbon further points out, there are present here not only the usual themes

of cultural imperialism but also the themes of German ilazism: race, blod,

earth, nation. Fanon's well-known critique of negritude, again, is rooted

in his inability to agree with the celebration of Negro primitivism, which

leads to a culte du negre reifying particular cultural traits into a new

transcendentalist racism of its own. ihat criticism, of course, stems

from Fanon's -arxist side, although it is worth noting that another side

of him allowed him to develop the equally mystic doctrine of 'holy


Of necessity, then, the negritude and black power themes needed

a counteroalancing dialectic which would take note of these deficiencies.

Such a dialectic appeared in the form of Iiarxism-Leninism, immeasurably

encouraged by the Cuban ievolutiono and, later, the i'icaraguan ^evolution.

rnat intellectual current was also accompanied by the other intellectual

current coming from the Latin American economic theorists of tne

dependencia school. The general result of this has been momentous, for

it has meant the gradual breakdown (although the process is still incomplete)

of the intellectual fragmentation of the different linguistic groupings of

the region. it has been a refreshing process. For anyone who knew the

University of Puerto Aico and the University of the 'est indies in the

19*&s will know that they were insularist in temper, the first seeming to be
like a quiet Gatholic retreat ana the second a icttle IeMf in a foreign

field that is forever Oxford.

ilarxi sm-T1enini sm

As myself a historian and political scientist, as well as

being a European socialist trained in the marxist school, I naturally

welomne the advent of Marxism to the Caribbean, both as a proper subject

in academic curricula and a tool in political activity, It is, even more,

a welcome antidote to a Caribbean area which, since 1945, has witnessed the

Americanisation of academic studies dominated, in most of its disciplines,

by the peculiarly American doctrine of 'liberalism' and, in structure, by

the excessive departmentalisation of thought and research. it is not,

i think, unfair to say, as a generelisation, that most ~Aerican academics

are 'liberals' who take American capitalism business society for Lranted,

although they may be 'reformers' wno want to modify it. here have been,

of course, 'mavericks' in that intellectual tradition---\eblen, enry and

Drooks Adams, C. bright -.ills, and others. but they were always outside the

mainstream, and are certainly not much read today. Since 194o, in addition,

the tradition has become enveloped in what has aptly been termed a new

'academic capitalism'in which the universities, and certainly the leading

prestigious universities have become enmeshed, both structurally and

intellectually, with the powerful networks of big government and big

business. "" ofn t}" --iZ-- A*znor ""e r',_rz-.. 1a ihnh

iuch of the IAerican-sponsored research and publication on the

Caribbean over the last generation or so has reflected that fact, with its
the manic footnoting,
characteristic traits: the coma of research, the artificial separation of

'disciplines', the massive funding, t:ie selection of topics for investigation

made increasingly by the philanthrppidfoundations, the research institutes,

the 'think tanks', the jargonistic ponderosity and virtual unreadability

of much of wnat is published, and the rest. Some of these traits have begun

to appear also in the European field, especially in sociology, were the

-merican discipline seems to be the role-model, it is rare, then, for

the Caribbeanist to develop a general, humanistic vision of the region

as a whole. Ihe exceptions prove the rule: iiG Smith and bespres in their

'plural society' studies, 6intz in his study of Caribbean peasantries,

'oetink in his work on the race-color-class syndrome, all of them, in

varying degree, responding to intz's conceptualization of the Caribbean

as an over-arching socio-cultural area.

'he advent of 'idological pluralism' in general anr, of *,arrism

in particular promises to help change the picture. 'he very origins of

uarxism in the 19th century iicardian classical tradition of Political

Economy, seeing the global system of production and exchange as constituting

one single whole, with all experience rooted in the material base of

goods and commodities, its primal focus on 'class' offers the one single,

permanent dynamic that informs all societies. it sees that every society is

a class society, that its education, its justice, its habits, even it modes

of thought, are limited by their subordination to the demands of the class

that owns the instruments of economic power, it sees that, wish industrial

capitalism, the world has become one economic unit, for capitalism, in the

phrase of the Communist 6aniifesto, gives 'a cosm.opolitan character to

production and consumption in every country.' Ic compels the breakdown

of national isolation; as it builds an independent material universe, so it

draws, as a common fund, upon science and learning from every nation; it

means the centralisation of government, the supremacy of town over countryside,

the dependence of 'backward' peoples upon those with more advanced methods of

production at their disposal. ,uch of the modern scholarship on the ihird

Vvorld has in fact been a more extended elaboration of those insights.

Darx and ingeas nver presented all this as a dogmatic

blueprint. fney saw their philosophical structure as a living, dynamic

thing, responding itself to the very laws of motion that informed the material

world. they never pretended in the manner of the Utopians, to know what the

future communist society would look like. As that structure, therefore, is

applied---in our case---to the Caribbean region 150 years later, it is urgent

to apply it with flexibility. it is possible that the original imarxism under-

estimatea the emotional appeal of nationalism. It is possible that it under-

rated the independent force of religious belief. Because it was a European

philosophy it had little to say about the problems of 'race' and ethnicity.

I'he famous passage in the manifesto, which is really a hymn of praise to the

marvellous achievements of the European bourgeosie in science, industry, and

technology, suggests that they did not consideAthat it is possible that it is

industrialism per se, and not just capitalist industrialism, that is the problem

ka debate that concerns many economists and planners in many of the Xhird

world countries today).

It follows from this that the real danger lies in a rigid and doctrinaire

application of warxism to the Caribbean realities. it is surely clear that

aace and Class are the twin loaestars of that Beality. Under changing

circumstances first one, and then the other, seems to take on a paramount

role. it is difficult to perceive any 'rational' explanation for the manner

in which the Caribbean working class allows itself to be uividei by intra-

racial rivalries, hatreds, ana stereotypes. ':he dogmatic Lurxisc who sees

anl that as subterfuge or 'false consciousness' or simply an e.i pl -ot on

that part of the ruling class to keep itself in power is surely wide of the

mark. A case in point---to take one example only---is the pamphlet on

poirtime published by the communist Jacqueline tamartiniere. f'or

Iamartiniere, noirisme is like negrophobia, anti-semitism, and Lionism,

just an evasive and dishonest ideology used by its theorists to at once

justify their own claim to power and blind the masees to the real

structural causes of their poverty. nese people are cacos ae salon

who only look for a change of government, not a social revolution. 'heir

championship, for example, of the creole language overlooks the fact that

the Haitian people need to eat, not

Continued on next page)

to have their patois made official. heir anti-curopean rage forgets that

.urope has given us not just Drake and c ortes but also Copernicus and

Darwin. 'heir defense of vaucou is displaced, for as a religion vaudou,

like all religions, teaches taboos, resignation and obscurantism to its

devotees. Any ideology, in any case, that conceives holistically of the

ames noires is theoretically unsound, for the ame noire is divided between

peasant, proletarian, petit bourgeois, landed proprietor, and compracor

bourgeoisie. 'he real revolutionary avant-garde must concern itself with

the objective structure of things, not the subjective superstructure.

itere is something in these strictures. but it is difficult not to

feel that Depestre, rather than l amartiniere, has the better of the

argument. lamartiniere assumes marxism as rigid economic determinism,
an interdependence
ignoring k:ngels' warning that social causation involves far more complex

between the economic base and the non-econaoic superstructures: religion,

politics, ideology. An epiphenomenon so rich in its theology and worldview as

vaudou cannot be simply dismissed as deception, and even Lamartiniere concedes

the difference between vaudou as majority faith and as a weapon utilised

by the ruling class. "or is black Power to be similarly dismissed ; for if,

as Lamarciniere asserts, ,alcotm was assassinated by the Arerican ruling

class only when he went beyond an anti-white stance to challenging the

capitalist system, that still leaves unexplained the assassination of

Martin Luther Aing. "or is it true to charge the noiristes with forgetting

the larger world revolution, for both Fanon and Eesaire never really

surrendered their Enlightenment humanism: r'anon could thus write an

impasoionea chapter in his book on the Algerian revolution in defense of

those Algerian Jews who had sided with the popular cause, while Cesaire s

castigation of a sort of ;uropeaq Copernican prejudice, of both Ieft and

Aight, that had assumed that it had a divine right to guide the coloniesp--

as contained in -is moving iettre a -.aurice i'iorez of i9o6, irn Ah:i .

he announced his resignsiou froi.: thi.- 'rench Comii iunist 'arty---u)st be

set side by side with his fine declaration in the Gahier ---

et aucune race ne possede Lene monopole de
la beaute~__e 1' inteli-gencC de Ia force
et ir est pacepour tous a.. rendez-vous
de la conqgete.

I hace ited this example at length because it illustrates the

danger of employing any philosophy, not just "arxism, as in this case,

in a narrow ana dog-yiaic fashion. t is tn.he kind of polemic thot, as in

much Gor:ia.unist controversialist literature, is teripoed to equate

intellectual dissent wibli rorol crimini itL -o accuse everybody, as

does Ianmartiniere, fror.i 1rice--ars 5o even Jacques upumiaain, of being self

s,.rving opportunists j- tiie ";itLiai [o'itical gerie is to ussu e, to say

the least, an unairactive self-rigntreousness.

so far, tnis is .arxi-sr as pnil'osophy. Out iarrxism is also tactics

and strategy ii tne Wrvice of 'iLe proletarian revoluti on. It is therefore

wjrtn, looking urie!'ly at the laLest example of the application of iarxist

teaching on sorea i:e ana a.;.i .-. 0,o a Oariobean situation, namely that

of the Pnj rie-ime in Grenada, whicn ended in cr '-,,ocaust of Octocer

19, 1986. A full analysis of revolution and counter-revolution in rornaaC

must awvit another cinre ana another place. Vihat I wish to emphasise here

is now birenada illuscrates the point being made here: that is, che

limits of the applicability of ~,arxisin-Leninism, as it is called, tj the

Caribbean condition.

As one reads ,~' history of the event, and, more specifically, the

minutes of the PiG Central vo'lu:itee mecutings LhrougLout the su:imer and

fall of 1,'86, wnich addressed themselves to the wnole problem of the nature

of -ohe revolutionary process, the role of the Party in that process, the

nature of the proper relationship between tne arty, the state, and tne

mass constituency, it becomes clear tnat there is presented here a classic

case study of how applicable, or non-applicable, should be the tenets of

iarxist-Leninist tactics and at~Atgy in a Caribbean simaI-island

environment. Certain things stand out clearly.
(1) 'he PiG leadership saw the &i~at M in simple black and white terms.

It was stated, with remarkable candoe, by the centrall Committee majority
in the crucial meeting of September 26Y was a choice, as they saw it,

between the 'petty bourgeois route or the Cotmunist route. The

Conmiunist route, for which they opted, was, as they put it, the

route of Leninist standards and functioning, requiring the lIeninist

qualities of iron discipline, supervision and guidance in -! areas of

party work, and brilliance in strategy and tactics.

(2) ine ultra-Left faction nad clearly taken over the Leninist structure

of' thought and analysis. out tnis creates a problem: is Leninism the

same as marxism, as tri- ver; ,se of the term 'taLrxism-Leninism' implies?

Any answer to that question r:usE recognise that, especially in the

theory of the role of the party, Lenin departed radically from the

position o!' iarx and angels. l'ormulating his theories in a Czarist

aussiat, not westernn "urope, he conceived the Communist party as an

elite vanguard party, so that the dictatorship of the proletariat

became something more akin to the Jacobin idea of a CoTunittee of

Public safety than to any content thai 'arx or Lngels had given to

the term. aiarx and Pngels never at any -ti.ie claimed that the

Communists should form a separate party, least of an that any

such party should become a tigh;ly-knit, iron-disciplined advance

revolutionary elite imposing its ideological pattern upon the rest of the

working-class movement, so t'a-, in the Aussian case, as Herzen put it,

Communism became 'Tsarism turned upside down.'

(3) Xhis is eminently clear from the sharp debate between Lenin himself and

t0osa Luxembourg in the early 2Uth century period. "ers was the most reasoned

and systematic criticism of the Leninist model to appear. "On the one hand,"

sne wrote in 1904, "apart from the general principle of the struggle, there

is no ready-made, pre-established, detailed set of tactics which a central

co..ittee can teach its Social Democratic membership as if they were army

recruits. Un the other hand, the process of tie struggle, which creates

the organisation, leads to a continual fluctuation of the sphere of influence

of Social Democracy. It follows that the Social democraticc centralisation

cannot be based on blind obedience, nor on the mechanical subordination

of the party militants to a cenuran power. On the other hand, it follows

that an absolute dividing wael cannot be erected between the class-conscious

kernel of the proletariat, alrcaa, ':: .enised as party cadre, and the

immediate popular environment wh-ich i.t grripped by the class struggle and

finds itself in the process or cl'os; enlighte'nment. ror this reason, the

construction oi' centralism in social? Le:ocracy, as Lenin aesires, on the

oasis of these tvo principles, (.) on the blind subordination of all party

organizations in che smallest detai- of their activity to a central power

which alone thinks, plans, anrl ideciue. for all, (2) the sharp separation

of the organised kernel of the party froi.. the surrounding revolutionary

milieu, seems to us to be a mechanistic transfer of the organisational

principles of the blanquistic riovement of conspiratorial groups to the

social Democratic movement of the !vorKi g masses..."

(4) it was, however, the leninist model, and not Aosa l~A.rib:. '6 ro C-
democratic moael, that was accepted uncritically by all the national

Communist parties after 1917. Lence the ethical behavior that characterized

them until the period of the -econio. i>orld iar: the passion for conspiracy,

the need for deception, the centralised and automatic demands, all ultimately

based on a slavish acce-ptance of orders from moscow, the contempt for fair

play, the readiness to denounce all opponents as 'social fascists' or

'petty borgeois deviabionists' or 'rightwing opportunists', and, worst of

all, the readiness to purge those opponents once the Communists were in full

power, as in russia itself after 1934 and Czechoslovakia after 1948.

(5) 'he irony, for the Cariboean, is that while this ioscow tyranny gave way

after i94o to the liberalising movement of Luro-Communism, especially in

I'rance and 1caly, ic appeared over again in the Caribbean, and notably in

urenada 1979-38. The PAG ultra-Iefrt faction repeated all over the gross

mistakes of une Leninist mouel in, action. A model originally shaped---and

quite properly---for tne special conditions of ;lavic, czarist Iussia was
transferred, eri uy to tiie quite different conditions of the democratic

and western-type Caribbean society. fi'e centrall Comi.ttee meetings make it

clear that everything else---inc]udinS the final act of assassination of

opponents---flowed from that. i, has oeen note by, among others, the

French Antillean socialist Jzan 1'irard. "i find", he writes, "the uoinaness

of cogmatism which transforms reality in tne name of tne 'scientific

approach',. I find the intolerance wnicn eliminates conmwonsense in the name

of so-called 'ideological level'. i find, under a new disguise, tie agme

old contempt of the people, tnrir knowledge and emotions, tneir talents

and tieir profound aspirations."

(5) 'he lesson of all this fcr t i CaribLean progressive movement is clear.

It r.ust rediscover its conviction that socialism must go hana in hand

witr. democracy. it musg back to the more civilized and humane marxism of

iarx and angels themselves. For although both of them had their own share

of fierce controversialism they never pretended that they were entitled

to some sort of infallibility so absolute that it is tempted to establish

what is virtually an inquisition to enforce their dogma. it must see its

marxism not as a harsh dogma but as a rich and inventive dialectic for

understanding reality) even more, be ready to recognize its limitations when

it is transferred from its original vuropean habitat and transported to the

tropical inird horld. It must be able to recognise those, even in its own

ranks, for whom arxism becomes, even with the best of intentions, a vehicle

of power and ambition, a lesson summed up, after all, in Cheaai Jagan's

warning in his 'critical support' speech of the 197Us, that 'not everyone
who cries 'Comrade, Comrade' shall' asm- into the kingdom of socialism.'


*l) IL have attempted in this brief essay to identify and describe what

seems to me to be the three leading thought-systems that have helped

shape and direct political activity in the Caribbean region since

19tb: nationalism, black power-negritude, and 6-arxism-teninism.

inere are, of course, others. "ut these seem to be the major and

most important. ihey all have treated, one way another, with the

leading features of Cariobean societies; 'race', class, and culture.

loo much of cariobean scholarship, however, has been tempted to treat

them separately, almost as if they lived in separate and hermetically

sealed compartments. 1qhat we need has been emphasised by the young

Puerto iican scholar Juan Giusti in an unpublished manuscript. "Fragnenting

and excessive concern with class or race or culture, he writes, "in

their various broadly accepted definitions, oversimplifies or negates

important issues of social group, class ~frmation and transformation,

aoove all by way of a failure to consider social problems of social-

scientific method. A crisp separation between race, class and culture

in social reality---such as would permit subordination of one by the

other, or contingential interaction---exists only in our minds, or

perhaps only in our imagination, unless we are to envisage the making

of history by abstract well-bounded ideas rather than by concrete,

complex human beings.....fhe key object of enquiry, it is submitted,

ought neither to be configurations indefinitely abstracted from social

reality---whether race, class, or culture---nor (its fundamentally identical

obverse) a chaotic empirical social reality, but rather classes in active,

intelligent, creative movement, making and being made by material-

perceptual conditions---racial, class, cu;lral, gender, territorial-

national, generational etc.,---at once abstract and concrete, it is a

movement that is at the same time the material history of the classes

and of tneir evolving racial, cultural, class, and national conceptions

of their reality."

(2) in this conceptualization, ideas are not just the 'superstructure'.

father, they they are the flesh and blood of human experience. 'hey

nave to be accepted as such, studied as such. ihat is why, in the complex

personality of r"arx himself there is 'larx the thinker, deeply rooted in

the study of "egel, and -arx the humanist, with his passion for Dickens

ana balzac. Uaribbean studies, I venture to suggest, need to give ideas

the priority they have not hitherto received, Ihere are two general reasons

for that. 'he first is the empirical, public policy orientation of much of

those studies, so that all of the aiscip'ines have tended to look at ideas

only marginally. 'he second is the sad fact that the massive transformation of

many Caribbean societies in the postwar period has spawned enlarged middle-

class sectors marked, generally, by materialism and cultural philistinism,

feverishly pursuing the greatest good of the smallest numbers. -11 post-

war periods are like that: post-13i8lo urope, post-i919 America. Ve have

lived in a similar period in the post-194:_ uori >bean.

'<) for, a rest in modern societies, i- is the great thinker who sets the

pa-terns of our thi'.rinrg. ,hetier it is Descartes or lousseau or hegel or

--arx or "reud or --instein, he creates fcr us, in his work, a map of the

universe which confers meaning, purpose and direction upon what. risJ. :;eer':

io be ite eni es ie.tu-. _'.' f i ryday ii .f c eyi ri--rce. te hels

exPi!ajn ti'e inner itas that. ovprn that experience ie establishes the

'inarticulate major prerrises' of behavior, so that even ordinary ren and

women, .n ei:erknown to -.moev o.-:., respond to n s t!L.. it; in tie raonner of the

vie-, of thie i'cr~l tLha' hes carry- around in their iinds.

(4) ',e in the 'arihbean are under no obligation to feel apologetic or

embarrassed as we look at that great intellectual tradition of westernn

thought. V.e, too, have our tradition; and it is not ignoble. io one can

look at the 20th century Iaricbean and fail to be astonished by the

contribution of its leading thinkers: Urtiz, erice-'ars, Cb. James, Zric

"illioams, 'rantz Fanon, Aime Gesaire, Pedreira, and others. As we of

hhe older generation of Caribuean investigators prepare to say goodbye

0we deserve a rest) iD is the business of some younger Gariubeanist-schonar

to write the book tnat will be a critical appreciation of that collective


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