POLITICAL SITUATIONS: AFTER RODNEY :- THE POLITICS OF STUDENT PROTEST IN JAMAICA

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POLITICAL SITUATIONS

In retrospect, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that much of what took place in the week following the 15th October was either planned or anticipated by the Government.

The banning of Rodney touched off what in effect constituted a political – chain reaction. The chief participants in the sequence of events besides the Government itself, were the University students, the University “administration”, certain segments of the population, and the Daily Gleaner.

The Government, it seems, had certain specific political objectives clearly defined to itself. Perhaps the principal aim was the destruction and intimidation of a new consciousness emerging amongst the population in Kingston and some of the rural parishes. This consciousness is based on a recognition that the bulk of the Jamaican population – small farmers, underemployed, unemployed and self-employed workers, have no real economic or social or cultural stake in the country. An inherent racist situation exists in that the mass of the population is black, while the real control is exercised by metropolitan business, which is white, and the brown people and racial minorities have so far picked up most of the crumbs left behind by the white power”.

The “black power” movement is a natural and legitimate reaction to this.

It is based on real premises and represents only the latest expression of an aspiration which first began with Arawak resistance to Spanish colonisation, and which ultimately gave rise to the present Government and Opposition parties in Jamaica.

The failure of both of these parties to devise a meaningful programme to involve the black masses in their own economic and cultural emancipation have made them, in effect, agencies of the white economic power structure. Increasingly, the population is becoming aware that their continued deprivation is due not to the failure of individual policies of one or either party, but to the operation of the system as a whole. This awareness threatens the position of the owners of the system – sugar, bauxite, the banks, the merchants – and the Political parties, who are the systems agencies and part beneficiaries. Rodney’s lectures in African history gave to black people a sense of past achievement, and therefore of future purpose. They were, to a people brainwashed for centuries in a sense of their own worthlessness, an indispensable psychological asset. They were therefore perceived as “subversive” to a system by which the economic interests – white in colour, few in number, non-resident and in large degree invisible – disenfranchise the black people of dignity and material welfare.