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Dr. ERIC W ILLIAMS::::::::::::
'First Premie:r o Trinidad & Tobag
By C. L. R. JAMES
This sketch of the career of the Premier of Trinidad and Tobago
aims to give biographical material which will contribute to a better
understanding of his politics. When it is convenient I shall try to
relate Dr. Williams (and other prominent West Indian politicians) tp
the type of society which produced them. This of course will be
much more difficult, but correspondingly, it will provoke more dis-
cussion, and I hope, more systematic investigation and thought. If
we do not think for ourselves, then we perforce, use other people's
thoughts. To demonstrate for independence is good, but to think
independently is much better.
May 12. 1960. C. L. R. J.
The thanks of P.N.M. and the public are due to those public-
spirited citizens who have made possible the publication of this
document at the price of 10 cents.
P.N.M. Publishing Co.
A Convention Appraisal
By Convention appraisal 1 mean an appraisal suitable tor consia
ration before the Convention. I certainly do not mean a conven-
sional appraisal, the origins of Dr. Williams; his intellectual interests;
his taste in ties and that sort of business, all of which can have a
place but not here. I mean simply this: certain ideas which should
circulate in the Party and, more important than anything else, arouse
discussions around Convention time. Far from being a personality
parade, what I am aiming at is to place Dr. Williams, as far as this
is possible, in the objective environment which has made him what
he is, and will help to make him better understood primarily by his
own party. A clearer grasp of what he stands for may not improve
relations with his opponents or his enemies. It could easily make
them more determined than ever to get rid of him. We, however,
have our own tasks to tackle irrespective of what opponents may or
may not do as a result.
Some such appraisal as this is overdue. Two dangers always are
waiting at the heels of an inexperienced, i.e. four-year old political
party, which has no long history of its own to chew upon. The first
is seeing everything too much in terms of personality. The second
is pursuing a particular point without reference to the total picture.
Both are in reality examples of the same generic error, not keeping
a proper balance between the universal' and the individual, the part
and the whole. This type of thinking is rampant in the West Indies
today: X did this. Y did that. B failed here. C is a bad type. D
did not do that............ This cainot go on indefinitely. If a group of
individuals are in constant conflict and turmoil, then the reason for
it almost always is, not their personal failings but the system they
are trying to operate. Either it is a bad system or, taken as a whole,
the body of men trying to run it are unsuited to it. Within such a
general framework but only within it is personality decisive; for good
or bad. Furthermore what is a personality? You have to work hard
and !ong before you can arrive at some clear, i.e., workable concep-
tion of a strong political personality, a conception which enables you
to understand why he does what he does. The Guardian, that ball
and chain on the feet of the new nation, deals exclusively in ambition,
chips-on-the-shoulder, would-be dictator, or in the case of its hero,
Bhadase Maraj, illness which made him nervous and nervousness
wh;ch made him etc. etc. It is my considered opinion that this is
equivalent to injecting a slow but deadly poison into the body politic
every morning. It is worse than lies or suppression of news. It is
a systematic corruption of the thinking of the community. I happen
to have had an exceptional opportunity to observe Dr. Williams during
many years. Let us try to get some distance into the conception of
a political personality.
ROLE OF PERSONALITY
Dr. Williams is a post-war (World War II) nationalist politician
in an underdeveloped colonial territory which is still not independent.
That is the primary generalisation. We can be a little more par-
ticular and say that whereas the general world movement to full
democracy, self-government and independence began in the West In-
dies, in 1937, It seemed that in Trinidad, up to 1956, this movement,
a world-wide movement, found impossible obstacles to getting under
way. This was expressed by the apparent impossibility of forming
a political party, for without political parties, parliamentary democ-
racy and independence are impossible. The nationalist idea in Trini-
dad seemed destined to fritter itself away in fits and starts, self-
seeking, demagogy and individual struggles for power Given such
a situation as I have described, it was inevitable that it would breed
a certain type of politician. If even an individual of ability, char-
acter, and dominated by the highest motives had appeared, he would
have been worn down, corrupted, or demoralized and defeated by the
objective circumstances. No individual by himself can conquer a
web of circumstances which comprise a political system. If even he
survives with his integrity, he is ineffective and useless, with a strong
inclination to blame the backwardness of the people.
Someone has to change the system. It is here that personality,
the subjective, enters into an objective situation. A comparable back-
wardness in British Guiana was entered into and shaped by Dr. Jagan.
It was not bound to be Jagan. It might have been Burnham alone.
(But even here, the weight of the Indian population made it more
likely that the emergent political leader would be an Indian.) There
was no law that dictated that such a person would be an adherent of
Moscow. These are the accidents of history. This one is an accident
which has caused and is causing infinite suffering, frustration and
disorder to British Guiana and, indirectly, affects the whole of the
West Indies. Let us see what was objective and what was accidental,
subjective, in the fact that Dr. Williams emerged as the political
leader in Trinidad.
His policies previous to the formation of the Party and in the
process of its actual formation, tell us much. The principles he
established were Political Education, Nationalism, Morality in public
affairs, PNM. Dr. Williams is a certain type of person. But it seems
to me that the notorious corruption of Trinidad political life forced
political morality inescapably into the forefront of the new politics.
No emergent party leader could avoid it. Similarly, in 1956, no
emergent party builder in Trinidad could fail to raise the banner of
nationalism. It was a natural. When we come to political education,
however, we touch the personal, the individual contribution, the acci-
dent in history. As Dr. Jagan is a Stalinist intellectual, Dr. Williams
is an academic, an academic and an academic of a particular kind.
He is an intellectual with an abiding faith in the power of the intel-
lect. There are not many such: that is why so few have ever created
a University of Woodford Square.
He is no ordinary academic in another sense. I doubt if there is
a single Premier in the Commonwealth, certainly in the underde-
veloped countries of the world, who came to power so admirably
suited for leadership in his own territory. He has been shaped by
the circumstances of his life and they should be known and discussed
and pondered over. He appears to be the result of an extraordinary
series of coincidences and I have not had the time nor the opportu-
nity to work at the organic connection between them. The facts,
however, are striking enough. Of course Dr. Williams has brains as
befits a scholarship winner. But when he took history at Oxford
instead of law or medicine, he 'made a new significant break with
the colonialist mentality. I remember meeting him in Warner or
Marli Street in 1932, congratulating him on his scholarship and saying
to him that I was glad to see that he had broken out of the law and
medicine routine and was going in for .history. I said: "You need
not be afraid of the future. Trinidad and Tobago in 15 years will be
a very different place from what it is now."
Thus early Williams had broken out of the spheres that colonial-
ism had marked out for the local man of colour, who had no money.
Some no doubt did law or medicine from choice. But in those days,
to earn a living, you had to take one or the other.
It is impossible here to stay to analyse the reasons why an indi-
vidual behaves in this way. in my own case I find that since I was
ten, I had set my mind quite firmly against being a lawyer or doctor,
making a lot of money and becoming an Honourable Member of the
Legislative Council (Nominated). That was the career everybody
marked out for me. I would have none of it. A writer I wanted to
be and that I pursued, irrespective of everything and everybody.
Williams took history. Note that this is the best preparation for
politics if it is the right kind of history. And in England in the
thirties it was bound to be the right kind of history. At no time
since Chartism in 1848 was Britain in such political and intellectual
turmoil as in 1933-1939. The Great Depression, the success of the
first Russian Five Year Plan, the rise of Nazism, the threat of Hitler,
the threat, and very real it was, of a Fascist movement in England,
the spread of Marxism, the anti-imperialist struggle, all this contrib-
uted to making England a seething cauldron of political and social
ideas. All traditional conceptions were examined and stripped to the
bone. Williams was at Oxford where the ferment of ideas had pene-
trated. His holidays were spent in London, and in our various ways
George Padmore, myself, Arthur Lewis were part of this tremendous
intellectual and political training. Among much else this period pro-
duced the ideas and the leadership of the movement which immedi-
ately after the war opened up the era of the passing of colonialism.
Much of the conflict in the West Indies today between Williams and
his fellow politicians has some at least of its origins in the fact that
he passed through .this school and the others didn't. That period left
its mark on all who went through it. Fortunately for Williams (like
most successful men in politics and war, he is very lucky), he had
i-e priceless goou fortune ot studying history academically wnlie an
tnis actual history and thought was going on around him. The aca-
Jemic and the actual interpenetrated each other. To him history
became real and actual politics historical. If you do not understand
this, you do not understand him at all and much that he does and
the way that he does it is incomprehensible and creates antagonism
among his fellow politicians whereas it gives the mass a sense of
participation in the historical process.
HIGHLY LITERATE BUT....
In this revaluation of historical and political ideas that occupied
all thinking minds, the West Indies, as a nation, as a people, even as
a colony, were out, out of history, ignored and forgotten. We were
highly literate but intellectually and spiritually deficient as we still
are. The Case for West Indian Self-Government and The Black
Jacobins brought the West Indies into the historical and political cur-
rent of the day and Butler's movement in 1937 made the ideas an
actual force. Williams followed with Capitalism and Slavery as his
thesis for his Doctorate. I remember the long discussions we had
as to what the thesis should be and how it should be tackled. Those
congenital idiots and backward people who talk about Williams hav-
ing a chip on his shoulder on the race question should study all this,
ponder over it and take a vow of silence for the rest of their days.
West Indians and the West Indies were out of all that was going on
in the thirties and we deliberately set out to bring them in. When
Dr. Williams speaks of West Indian nationalism, independence, it
cones from the very roots of his being. He passed from studentship
to maturity by projecting West Indies history into the surging stream
of modern history and political theory from which it was absent. His
nationalism did not begin in 1956. Those who find his nationalist
attitude strange and intemperate would do well to remember its
origins. For my part I had had plans for doing more work on the
West Indies. I put that aside for other things when I saw the powers
Williams had developed and the direction of his mind. I felt that
the intellectual basis of West Indian nationalism was in safe hands
Out of Capitalism'and Slavery Williams emerged with certain
convictions which are the basis of his mind to this day.
1) The bankruptcy of the sugar-based economy.
.2) The West Indies as a football for colonial powers.
3) The fact that if emancipation had not taken place from above,
it would have taken place from below by a slave revolt. It is the
ideas prevalent in Europe in 1932-1939 and his own studies in West
Indian history which have given him his faith in the masses of the
Behind this were more subjective but no less significant ideas for
his future development. I select two
His academic study .of history at Oxford and his experiences in
England had given him a thorough grounding in the fundamentals of
Biritish parliamentary democracy. This is important because the
basic training and experience of Nkrumah and Azikiwe of Nigeria
was in the United States and the influence of that is appearing already
in the new Ghana Constitution. Padmore and 1, on tne other nanu,
made thorough studies of the Soviet system and both of us wrote and
published books on this. In this respect Williams is as British as
COLONIAL AT OXFORD
Closely allied to this is another experience: anyone who has read
Dr. Williams's "A Colonial at Oxford" will see that Williams absorbed
European culture through every pore and, what is very characteristic
of the period and of him, integrated it with his academic studies: he
does not like loose ideas or anything else straying'about; it was in
the thirties that the unity of all aspects of social and political life
became a common property of English thought. The result is that
he is a highly educated (in the Greek total sense of the word) citizen
of the world rooted in the British civilization and the British cul-
ture. If 1935 were 1955 he would certainly have had a Blue for
soccer at Oxford and he is a Centaur, a member of the Oxford Society
for near-Blues. Crowds used to follow him around at Oxford to see
him play for his college.
This consciousness of his personal equality with anybody of his
generation was fortified by a special experience in the England of the
thirties. Traditional England was under fire. And it was the regular
habit of a number of us colonials to go to public lectures and meet-
ings of some of the most celebrated lecturers and speakers in England
and at question time and during discussion tear them to pieces.
(Sometimes we astonished even ourselves but we soon got over that).
I think it was the very famous Socialist lecturer at Oxford, G. D. H.
Cole, whom Williams tore apart at one of his meetings. Curiously
enough it was the Liberals we usually dealt with-the Conservatives
we considered unworthy of notice.
I believe, however, the most powerful of Williams's English
experiences in this sphere was with Capitalism and Slavery. One of
his examiners for his Doctorate was Professor Coupland, an Oxford
professor and the admitted authority on the history of slavery in
England. Williams's thesis made mincemeat of Coupland's published
books. Yet it was unanswerable. Coupland, I understand, said that
if he had known what Williams had brought out he would htve.
written his books differently. The book is dedicated to Professor
Ragatz of America, the acknowledged master of this period, who en-
couraged Williams all the way for what he recognized was a highly
significant revaluation of one of the most important historical events
in world history. Another authority, an American, on reading the
book, said over and over again: "I would never have believed it."
SUPPORT OF PEOPLE
This then was the foundation of the education of the future
politician and nationalist. He had absorbed the culture and attitudes
of Britain as a part of European civilisation. But on political issues
n general; particularly colonialism, ne had seen tne anti-coloniai
case completely triumphant in exposition and discussion. In his own
particular field of history, he had overthrown the traditional view,
ioititied by English, university studies, that" the main cause of- the
abolition of British slavery was British good-will and repentance for
evil. While paying full tribute to the work of the abolitionists
(Clarkson is one of his heroes), he demonstrated that slavery had
been abolished because it was advantageous to the rising British
industrialists who wanted no more of this backward mode of produc-
tion. Since Capitalism and Slavery, not a squeak has been heard in
serious opposition: The champion of West Indian nationalism today
is merely carrying out politically what was firmly established in his
own mind against all comers by his studies and experience in 1933-
1939. Given such a background it will be seen why the idea of a
Colonial Office official telling him to do this and not to do that is
intolerable to Williams. As long as he was solitary he had to take
it. But the moment he was sure that he had a majority of the people
behind him, his present drive to independence was on. the order of
the day. He has recently stated that all constitutional questions on
the West Indies and all reserve powers should be in the hands of
the Federal Government. It is perhaps the most revealing of all his
statements; yet it has passed almost unnoticed. People continue
to probe into his "psychology" and his "ambition" and all sorts of
personality refuse, and make no serious attempt to grapple with one
of the most profoundly based and sharply organised political person-
alities of our time. The first time that an attempt is made in the
West Indies to understand the political personality of Williams West
Indian politics will make a long stride forward.
A LUCKY MAN
Williams is a lucky man. Nothing better for his future devel-
opment could have happened than his going to lecture at Howard, the
Negro university in the United States. I spent 15 years in the United
States beginning about the same time. I saw a great deal of Williams
there, I observed him, and I observed myself both then and now.
These are some of the conclusions I have drawn.
1) As can be seen from the careers of Nkrumah and Azikiwe,
years in the U.S.A. develop in you a dynamism and readiness "to do
things and go places" which is characteristic of that extraordinary
people. They learn by doing. Only Americans could have embarked
upon the gallant but inherently futile attempt to enforce teetotalism
by law. An American company would come to Trinidad tomorrow,
and having made its plans would forthwith pull down the Salvatori
building and put up another bigger one without the slightest hesita-
tion. Furthermore Williams worked in a Negro university. The
Negroes in the U.S. are a people on the move restlessly seeking open-
ings to advance themselves to equality. In this they are the most
American of Americans. Live there for years and if you have energy
and perspectives you absorb this spirit. Over and over again I see
cne clash between tAis readiness to move, to go ahead, in Wilhats,
and the traditional pawky, little by little, thus far and no further
conceptions and procedures of the Colonial Ofice, even when they
have good intentions. What makes it worse is the fact that behind
his American sense of rapid movement, and the urgency of the local
situation, Williams has his past experience of British traditionalism
which I have described above. The. Colonial Office is to him not
merely imperialism. It is all that he saw stripped bare and turned
inside out in 1933-1939.
Secondly, in America, a West Indian learns for the first time
what the race question really is. You see the thing in its nakedness
and its deep historical roots, its effect on racialists and anti-racialists.
There is nothing personal about this. It should be known that after
reviewing Capitalism and Slavery, an American professor of Columbia
University wrote that he wished Dr. Williams would devote his
method and power of analysis and research to the study of the aboli-
tion of slavery in the United States. The compliment is remarkable.
But more remarkable is the recognition of the need for the best
brains, not to try to push the horrible thing in a corner but to probe
as deeply as possible into it, to study it, where and how it began, to
see how it has developed, where it is going. The American professor
of History detected not only the intellectual power but what was more
important, the attitude which would take one side but yet never lose
its balanced objectivity before the facts. This deep American appre-
ciation of capacity to deal with so thorny a subject as American
slavery puts ,in their place all charges of racialism and anti-
Williams could not find time to do this work but West Indians, I
hope, can feel some pride in the fact and better still learn something
OUR SPECIAL ROLE
Let nTe give a personal experience here. When The Black Jacobins
was published in French, it was read and deeply admired in Haiti
I unreservedly took the side of the slaves. Yet it was years before
they discovered that the book was written by a Negro and a West
Indian. That testifies to the historical objectivity. I have myself
written Marxist papers on The Negro Question in the United States
which have been stated by' critics to be the best ever done in that
mode on this question in the United States. Unable to work on the
history myself, I have initiated studies among my American col-
leagues which I know will result .in the publication of some of the
finest historical work ever done on the Civil War and the Negro
Question in the United States. More of that another time. I go into
this because I believe that the West Indian intellectual has a role to
play in world history on this and many other questions. He is a part.
organically a part, of Western civilization, that is the framework of
his mind. But he is in a sense outside of it, and can see much that
escapes general notice. In that there is much of the confidence and
power with which Williams deals with the Colonial Office and the
State Department. He knows the civilizations they represent (or
misrepresent) from the inside. On the race question in particular,
the West Indian Negro can feel and be indignant but it has not shaped
every moment of his life for generations as it has shaped the life of
Americans. Our peculiar historical development is a handicap-our
intellectuals lack political spirit-but it gives certain advantages
which can be of use to ourselves when free and to others far larger
and more important than we are. Time and independence will show
this. Capitalism and Slavery is not only West Indian history. It
cleared up a lot of rubbish in English history. It is a pity that Wil-
liams never had the chance to assist in the clearing up of what, de-
spite the work of men like Carver Woodson and Dr. Dubois, is still
the greatest rubbish heap in American history (and it is constantly
and copiously being added to, for example, by Professor Nevins).
Williams, then, saw the true race question, in the United States.
And knows it to be one of the most pernicious cancers of civiliza-
tion, to be struck at wherever and in whatever shape it appears. This
is not anti-Americanism. It is pro-humanity. His approach to the
number of races who constitute the Trinidad community bears the
stamp of his long historical discipline in examining these questions
objectively in their origin and development. A new generation is
being trained in this approach. It will take time but racial arrogance
arnd racial obscurantism in Trinidad are doomed.
In America too Williams learnt the essentials of education as
developed by a people without the long European tradition. He mas-
tered the American approach and was very conscious of it in his book
on Education in the West Indies. The preparation of this book was
typical and gives as good an insight into Williams's character as any
thing else. He was willing to go to UCWI to teach. But before he
went he wanted to let everyone know what kind of university he
thought .the West Indies needed. Oxford he loved and still loves but
Oxford suits England, not the West Indies. And the University the
West Indians need most is a university which is the result of exam-
ining first the idea of a university, then all universities, particularly
these in underdeveloped countries, and adapting all this to West
Indian needs. And he is sure he can do this better than any English-
man. He is ready to consult with them but they must discuss what
he or other West Indians propose. They are not to propose for us
to discuss, as happened with Federation. That is Williams all over.
He began from Aristotle. He read everything he could find out
about universities, particularly in underdeveloped countries. He
interviewed U.S. and foreign professors. Then he wrote his book and,
as with Ragatz, he submitted it to the highest authority he knew,
John Dewey. Dewey warmly approved and wrote an introduction.
Williams is accused of arrogance. If you-know something he will
listen and take complete notes, consider it carefully and if need be
change completely his previous ideas. He listens with great patience
.0 the ordinary uninstructed citizen. But he takes incredible pains
to find out all that he can about his subject and if people come
around talking big or talking carelessly, he is extremely impatient,
and as he sees very quickly where an argument or idea is weak or
ill-based, he is not prepared to make allowances. Thus he is in con-
stant conflict with what he uncompromisingly calls "fools who waste
my time." Time is very precious to him. He smokes cigarettes in
order not to spend time cleaning and filling a pipe.
I saw his manuscript on education often and learnt a great deal
from it. A valuable memory of it, which will explain much of Dr.
Williams's political career is my frequent admonition to him: "I wouldn't
say that if I were you."
"I can say that, I am a free man, I can say what I please. You
had better not."
If I have said that to Dr. Williams once, I have said it fifty times
over the years. He would argue. I would be quite firm: I did not want
to see him get into unnecessary trouble. He was always chafing at the
restraint his official positions imposed upon him. 1956 released a long-
He was influenced but not fundamentally changed by his stay in
America. For his classes at Howard he embarked upon a project into
which he roped me, and to this day I wonder at it. It was a three
volume collection of extracts from world literature and world history
illustrating the development of civilization from primitive man to the
present day. I believe the volumes should be published and used in the
schools of the West Indies. The'thing had to be stencilled and mimeo-
graphed and bound at Howard where for all I know it is still in use.
I am insisting that Williams is a lucky man. I can't go into exactly
what that signifies now, but his next job was research for the Anglo-
American Caribbean Commission. His perpetual conflicts with his
employers he has himself made public. I shall not therefore spend any
time on that aspect except to say that it was one long piece of unre-
mitting infighting with the British Government and the American
Government. It was always a losing battle. The wonder is that Williams
held on for so long. He had little to fight with except ideas. But by
this time he had written The Negro in the Caribbean, and Capitalism
and Slavery had been published. He could not be thrown out easily.
By nationalist lectures and writings he made getting rid of him a
question which could have political repercussions (and didn't it have
them?). When the end came he was as I have said trained for his
present job as few men have been.
PREPARATION FOR PREMIERSHIP.
He had had a long and arduous conflict with the British and
American Governments on precisely the future of the West Indian
economy and society. People who talk about Williams's inexperience
of politics are merely shooting off. That conflict lasted for years, with
Williams using every device to hold up his end, advance his ideas and
at nis way. WVhen Ite became Chief Minister the conflict that started
all over again was on the same issues, with the same opponents. He
-as therefore perfectly at home, only now he had control of a govern-
ment and had the people behind him. I know much of that story and
the method used then is still the same. Do good work which had to
be accepted as marking progress. Meanwhile fight inside. But at the same
time write articles, give lectures, etc., building public opinion so that
any plan to dismiss him abruptly would have to take into consideration
the force of nationalist public feeling. The method today is the same,
only in a more propitious environment, with the real power the
power of mass support, on Williams's side.
The work at the Anglo-American Commission filled one great gap
in Williams's equipment. It made him acquainted in the most compre-
hensive and intimate manner with the West Indian economy as a whole.
That was his .daily work for years. To us who grew up in the thirties,
a strong central government and national economic development as the
indispensable basis of a successful Federation is second nature. We
cannot think otherwise. But to these general ideas and his knowledge
of West Indian history through the centuries, Williams now had -an
opportunity as no other West Indian politician ever had of constant
study and coordination of the West Indian, in fact the Caribbean
economy, taken as a whole. When he says West Indian nationalism he
speaks from deep down. When he says a strong Federation and a West
Indian national economy, he speaks from roots almost as deep. He
cannot think olnerwihe., For him to depart substantially from these
principles would be to make a wreck of all his studies and the experience
of a lifetime. To establish the truth about the central fact of our
history, slavery and its abolition, he had to challenge ideas which had
been accepted and taught in British universities and schools for a
hundred years. This was the seminal experience by which he passed
from youth to manhood. As I have tried to show, by accident and
instinct his whole career fortified and amplified this early orientation.
The whole has culminated in the struggle over Chaguaramas. When he
says that he will break the Chaguaramas issue or it will break him, it
is not a phrase. It expresses the whole life-experience of a man,
exceptionally gifted in ability, character and power of will. The speech
at Arima, From Slavery to Chaguaramas, should be read and re-read
by all who, for whatever purpose, wish to understand Dr. Williams.
DR. WILLIAMS: WEST INDIAN
Williams is above all a West Indian. His work at How-
ard had included the teaching of Lattin-American rela-
tions. In particular the Negro students at Howard Univer-
sity always wanted to learn from their professor all that he
could tell them about Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela. Williams covered
the ground very thoroughly. He was made a member of the staff of
a foundation in the United States devoted to research (The
Foundation for Foreign Affairs). His sphere of research was the
British Empire. Working for this foundation, he was able to study
the rising nationalist movement in Africa in great detail. But as usual
ne concentrated on the Caribtean. The only difficulyy was that wlneu
he wrote his papers and monographs more often than not the founda-
tion refused to publish them.
biomewnere aoouu i9+i Williams met Manley for the iir' time
and from tne very Deginning they got on famously. Ianiley came to
Howard University to receive his Honorary Doctorate wilie Williams
was Lhere. Later Manley became a member of the Caribean Com-
mission. Many of the projects introduced into the Commission oy
vWiliams were discussed in advance with Manley. That WViiams wa6
able to stay so long there was becaaise of the support given to him by
Manley and the Puerto Ricans. And if Manley had won the 1950
elections in Jamaica, either the whole Caribbean Commission would
have been reorganized or Williams would have left the Commission
to !go to work with Manley in his planning department.
He had better luck with Puerto Rico and Cuba. Munoz Marin, the
celebrated Governor of Puerto Rico, was and remains a firm friend.
Williams, Manley and Munoz Marin had long discussions together on
the conditions and development of the West Indies and it is no
accident that Manley in Jamaica and Williams in Trinidad have
modelled so much of their Development Programmes on the Puerto
But Williams is first a scholar. At a great conference in Puerto
Rico he outlined his conception of a syllabus for West Indian studies.
This aroused such enthusiasm that when the conference was over he
was asked to stay at the University and carry through the programme.
This, however, he was unable to do. He had better luck with the
Cuban dictatorship than with the foundation in democratic America.
He spent a whole summer in Cuba studying Cuban history When the
Cuban people honoured perhaps the greatest scholar that the
West Indies have ever produced, Fernando Ortiz, with the publication
of three large volumes of essays by different hands to commemorate
the 60th Anniversary of the publication of Ortiz's first work, Williams
contributed a massive essay on Race Relations in the West Indies. I
have it among my papers and I read it again quite recently. It is fully
worth publishing not only for Cubans but for other West Indians
as well. But that it remains unpublished is only another of the many
crying examples of our need for an independent publishing house.
Williams has been tireless in his pursuit of original material and
information about West Indian history. He has spent vacations
travelling over Europe, in Holland, in Copenhagen, in Spain, digging
out original material on the West Indies that has been buried for
centuries. When I was preparing The Black Jacobins, I had to leave
Paris and spend some days in Bordeaux and in Nantes. I was interested
to hear from Williams that he also, in pursuit of material on
the slave trade and the West Indies, had also had to visit those two
He has written and I also have a copy to which I
regularly refer, an absolutely magnificent manuscript which deals
with the history of all the West Indian islands from Cuba to Trinidad.
I am certain that no such history of the West exists anywhere else.
But when there will be time to prepare that M.S.S. for publication God
only knows. Too much time has to be wasted on the Colonial Office
and the State Department.
A word or two more about Williams's West Indian contacts to
throw more light on his political personality.
Along with Manley and Munoz Marin must be mentioned Cezaire
of Martinique, one of the most brilliant scholars and politicians that
the West Indies have ever produced. Cezaire was a Stalinist and he
had accepted the French colonial doctrine of assimilation, that is to
say that all French colonials, Chinese, Indians, Africans, should
ultimately become good Frenchmen. In 1955 Cezaire was breaking
with Stalinism and along with many other. French colonials, was
breaking also with the doctrine of assimilation. Williams was in
Brussels, doing a spell with the I.F.C.T.V. as consultant on plantation
workers. Daniel Guerin, a friend of ours who has visited the West
Indies and written a very fine book on his impressions, asked Williams
to come over to Paris to meet Cezaire and some of the others. It was
a strategic move. There was a meeting for Williams which was at-
tended by Cezaire and nearly 100 intellectuals and students. .Williams
spoke on his faith as a West Indian. The speech made a profound
impression and had just the effect hoped for by Guerin who knew the
ferment that was going on in the minds of Cezaire and others The
details will have to wait for another time. But it was not long after
that Cezaire led the breakaway which today is almost complete among
French colonials from the theory of assimilation. This is not to say
that Williams was responsible for the collapse of assimilation on
which many French colonials, particularly Africans, had been working
for years. But Williams as a West Indian, who had such wide experi-
ence of Europe and yet was so completely devoted to the idea of
West Indian nationalism, undoubtedly had a great effect on Cezaire.
If you listen carefully to Williams in ordinary conversation you will
note that he always speaks of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Martinique etc., as
if they were one with us
I hope I have said enough to show why Williams is in every
sense as complete a West Indian citizen as it is possible to be today.
I hope that this will explain and help people to understand why he
thinks and speaks as he does on Federation
,To have arrived at so completely a nationalist outlook carries
with it certain dangers, certain not merely inevitable but necessary
dangers, necessary because you have to arm yourself at all points to
resist the encroachments of powerful enemies of the as yet im-
mature national personality. Dr. Williams's education and general
knowledge and understanding of Western culture stand him in good
s.eac. One of his most cherished projects is the calling of a great
conference in the West Indies of Writers and Aitists in which
he will bring together West Indian writers and artists, English,
French and Spanish and the greatest figures in modern literature and
art, Jean Paul Sartre, Francois Maurice, Stephen Spender, Edmund
Wilson, Brazilian architects, Indian and Japanese film-producers ..
The idea is to project the West Indies into the very centre of Western
culture where, it can judge and be judged, learn and perhaps even
teach a bit. This whole question of West Indian nationalism is not
an easy one. First it has a life of its own, that is to say the forces
that control and direct it are and must be to a substantial degree un-
known, not easily seen far less measured. Secondly, crude or violent
attempts to manipulate it, even with the best of intentions tan do
more harm than good. Any government has enormous power to
harm and less power to do good, though it can do much good. Wil-
liams's whole past leads him to concentrate on the political aspect
on which he will not concede an inch; elsewhere he is more circum-
spect, ready to welcome, to stimulate, to include and not to exclude.
As I say this is a very difficult question. I tremble to think of the
mess that would most certainly be made were the influence and
power of government in other hands. The insensitivity of State De-
partment, Colonial Office and certain West Indian public figures is a
model of what ought to be avoided. More of this another time.
As will be obvious, I have not gone into such matters as his power
of work, his day-to-day political technique, the sharpness of his tongue.
These and similar matters, as I have said, have their place. But they
can matter only if the man as he is, is understood and accepted, and I
have tried to show what he is and how he became that way. He can be
broken, he cannot be changed.
This is the Convention appraisal, and to complete the picture, I
want to point out one great gap, the only one in Dr. Williams's pre
ministerial preparation, the only serious one. He had no experience of
party organization. And before he and his colleagues could learn he and
his Party were pitchforked into power. Five years in opposition, the
experience of most new political parties, would have made a world
of difference here. The theoretical foundations of PNM were well laid.
But no human being can at the same time run a government and direct
the organization of a party. If I can venture upon some advice to the
Party at this Convention, it is to take this task upon itself and concen-
trate all its force and attention upon the organization of the Party.
I have been for over twenty years a party functionary of one kind or
another. For almost as many years I was a member of an international
committee before which the affairs and fortunes of parties all over the
world periodically come up for review. The present secretary has
many qualifications for his task. But the party must think in party
terms. Indifferent organization is a weakness and politics has an
uncanny instinct for finding out the weakness of a party and making it
pay heavily for it. The comic opera DLP is not the proper comparison
The British Labour Party, the Conservative Party (very well organized),
Nkrumah's CPP, the PNP of Jamaica, these have much to teach.
The Party so far has every reason to be proud of itself but only
with a clear consciousness of what still remains to be done. So far it has
followed the course of nationalist parties, making up for lost time.
It has done and is doing what needs to be done. The Women's League
shows signs of a great future. The NATION can become one of the
great journalistic voices of the underdeveloped countries. But these
are so far mere possibilities which can be realized only by the full
development of the Party as an organization. Except in one respect it
has broken no new ground. Struggle for independence, Development
Programme, etc. here the Party is only catching up with the rest of
the world. Its distinctive contribution to nationalist and even world
politics is political education. I have never seen or heard of any political
forum (in non-revolutionary periods) where addresses of the level of
Dr. Williams's speeches have been consistently listened to by popular
audiences. The credit has to be divided equally between the confidence
and courage of the speaker and\the receptivity of the audience. That
in the last analysis is the secret of Dr. Williams's politics. Everything
he has ever learnt, and he has learnt a great deal, he is able to stand and
say and his popular audience listens for three, four, five hours at a
time. This is the West Indies at its best. There is the promise that we
shall achieve equality with other peoples and have the immense satis-
faction and stimulus (very important to people with our history) that
we do not only receive but are giving to the common stock of culture.
This is Dr. Williams's own special contribution, the impact of his
individual personality, the historical accident. And yet in the Hegelian
dialectic the organic movement proceeds by way of accidents and the
sum of accidents constitutes the organic movement.
It is a truly great achievement. The long scholarly training and
rigorous intellectual discipline seemed to have been nurtured to find
fulfilment in the untutored but eager Trinidad masses. The accident
turns out to be no accident after all. It is the genius of the people;
following streams widely diverse with apparently no connection, to
coalesce in the end and gather strength for wider and further advances.
It is a phenomenon often noticed at great moments in history and is a
tested guarantee of ultimate success. Dr. Williams is of the people,
even though some who listen can neither read nor write. A people is
finding itself. The jackals and the mongrels are snarling and yapping,
but the caravan is crossing the desert and will reach its goals.
I find it impossible, in fact it is impossible, to separate a convention
of a mass party from the general public. I hope this appraisal will
be considered by others beside the party. The Colonial Office and the
State Department in their frantic desire to bend to their purposes,
to humiliate and to exploit a small people in their long overdue effort
to stand on their own feet and express themselves as an independent
nationalist community, are guilty of one of the most wilful, unnecessary,
cruel and sordid pieces of bullying in all the wretched hist6iy of
imperialism. Instead of recognizing what Dr. Williams replies nts,
and he represents the future of the West Indies, they descend .tb the
meanest and most contemptible tricks and dodges, ready to ally them
selves with self-seeking, discredited and even grossly dishonoured and
dishonourable elements in the population. There is no excuse whatever
for it. All this will be made clear in good time. They can read or
not read, that is their business, these teachers of how to govern, who
fail in the first principle of government, to understand what and whom
you are dealing with, a people suppressed for centuries who are fighting
to be free and have found a leader who represents their best hopes.
Where the whole history of the passing of colonialism should prompt
them to sayi "We welcome your determination and your sense of
principle. It augurs well for your future," we find instead that
humanity, generosity, even the formal courtesies of civilized inter-
course, seem to shrivel in them as they meet someone who knows his
mind and speaks it. They have blundered enough before. To them
one more blunder does not matter. It is life and death to us.
That is why there are two elements in our population to whorn I
hope what I have written will contribute something new. The/former
ruling classes have to decide; political power is now out of their hands;
if they do not want the national community that Dr. Williams is working
for, what do they want ? and how will they get it ? The alternative,
to a Williams is a Trujillo. Look round the Caribbean Sea and think
over what you see there. It is this which makes the attitude and policy
of Colonial Office and State Department the shocking and evil thing
that it is.
The second is the Federal Government. Its conflicts with Dr.
Williams seem endless. I am convinced that for this the Colonial Office
is responsible. But when two sides find themselves unable to get
together,-exasperate each other at every turn, while professing
adherence to the same 'principles, it is often the sign of deep and
irreconcilable political divergences which have not yet appeared but
which each side instinctively feels. The angularities of Dr. Williams's
personality occupy too much attention. Lloyd George, Franklin
Roosevelt, Winston Churchill frequently said the most wounding things,
but people looked at what they stood for and shrugged or smiled away
the rest. The conflict is the more confusing because, as everyone who
knows Dr. Williams at all well knows, he has no inclination whatever
to supplant the present Federal Government, being fully occupied with
his present work, plans and perspectives. Here all of us suffer terribly
from the lack of political journalism of an honest and serious kind.
The Trinidad Guardian deals in slanders, scandals, suppression of facts,
and analysis always on the level of the lowest attributes of human
character. Thus there is no high level clarification such as politicians
in more advanced countries enjoy. It is possible that this attempt
to show the experiences and forces that make Dr. Williams what he
is can assist to a more helpful appreciation of his policies and procedures.
I hope so. The recent article in The Times was a fair and just appraisal.
But Whie we welcome such, we should do these things for ourselves.
That is what independence means.
Perspectives of The West Indies
THE SAN FERNANDO SPEECH
By Dr. ERIC WILLIAMS
PNM'S New World
By Dr. WINSTON MAHABIR
From Slavery to Chaguaramas
By Dr. ERIC WILLIAMS
STILL ON SALE
The History of Chaguaromas
The Approach of Independence
By Dr. ERIC WILLIAMS
Printed and Published by P.N.M. Publishing Co., Ltd., 90 Frederick Street,
Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, W.I.