Chairman’s Report on the New World Group, Jamaica, for the period August, 1967 to September, 1968.

N0RMAN GIRVAN, Chairman, New World Group Jamaica, 1967/1968.

The Jamaica New World Group has operated, over the last twelve months, against a background of continued and growing ferment in the parish, in the region and in the world. In Jamaica, itself, the contradictions inherent in the coexistence of the forms of political democracy and constitutional independence with the reality of a colonial society and economy became daily more naked and, in many instances, more bloody.

Drought, and the deterioration of the public services have merely exacerbated the conflicts brought about by the pauperisation of the “peasantry”, the structural inadequacy of creative and satisfactory opportunities of earning a livelihood, and the cultural disorganisation which is characteristic of most Caribbean countries and indeed, most of the Third World.

The visible and felt results of this, in Jamaica, have been the escalation of extra-legal violence by the juvenile population, and of “legal” violence by the Government and its instruments of repression; the rapid growth of skilled and semi-skilled migration to North America; the uneasiness and self-armament of the privileged classes; the total cynicism in the body politic and the frantic travelling abroad in search of metropolitan favours by Government Minis­ters, led by the Prime Minister himself.

In the remainder of the Caribbean, our knowledge of what is happening continues to be scanty, in spite of our aspirations to regionalism, because of the limitations of reliance on the metropolitan press, and our own failure so far to remedy this reliance, our ignorance of developments in Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and the French and the Dutch-speaking parishes is near total. Moreover, such fare as we are fed by Reuters, the Associated Press and the United Press International is of little value or relevance.

What these Press agencies tell us is whether the Cuban sugar crop has fulfilled its target; whether “Papa Doc” is going to hang a British agent; and how many communists Balaguer has locked up.

What we would like to know is what problems the Cubans are having in running their sugar industry, and how they are dealing with them; what are the dimensions of the political situation of the first Caribbean country to seize independence from its parent metropole: or how the Dominican peasantry views the radical student groups in Santo Domingo. Our failure to inform ourselves on such questions, to make the experience of these people’s part of our individual and collective consciousness; or indeed even to establish a reasonable communications network with the rest of the English-speaking Caribbean, should be a constant reminder of how far we have fallen short of the objective we have set ourselves to be a Caribbean movement in content and in functioning as well as in name.

In the rest of the world there has been no shortage of the change, unrest and violent conflict which has become characteristic of contemporary times.

Of the many events occurring in the past year I want to select two to note in particular because of the way in which I think they demonstrate the irrelevance of conventional categories of political thought and perhaps action. In France, the most overwhelming majority of University students and the industrial working classes carried out a prolonged revolt against the Gaullist establishment, and the political parties, including the communists. That they failed may be due to their lack of political organization, and of an ideology to offer the society as a whole; that they made the attempt, however, suggests that the issue in the metropolitan countries may be less and less that of capitalism vs. communism, but more and more that of popular control vs. bureaucratic control over people’s lives.