The case for ‘thought’ rests on the need to erode the intellectual and philosophical foundations of the old order so as to guard against the mere substitution of one political elite for another. In addition to the enthusiasm and the zeal which may be kindled by faith, hope and indignation, thought brings the dimension of rational motivation and planned action.
Spontaneity alone does not effect change. If we know precisely what is wrong, we know better where and how to intervene and what we are fighting for. Commitment is more specific, more durable and more effective. In this way thought can be seen to be an aid to action – an indirect one, if you like.
Thought also induces action quite directly. An intellectual as much as a political movement can only be effective if it transforms its resources into an institution, into machinery which works systematically towards the achievement of objectives. This is now, after ten years of initiative, well within our experience in the New World Group. A graduate from the University of the West Indies bears witness on the matter:
” ……. real change cannot take place in the West Indies by simply going to the hustings. What is necessary is a change of consciousness which will take a long time. New World has been effective in two senses as an organization. It is the nucleus of serious thought in the Caribbean. In this sense, it is doing the University’s job, and has influenced tremendously all of the young thinking people on Campus. It has also welded a Group of people together on a very serious basis, mutual respect and some sense of hard work. Bringing out a journal such as New World is an absolute necessity and the effort to achieve this necessitates group work”.
In some ways, the dichotomy between thought and action is clearly false. Even so, one readily admits that the action which is directly involved in the work of New World is limited, of a highly specialised kind, and not likely to involve large numbers. Further, one might adopt a classically sceptical position on the role which ideas play in history. On both counts, there is an obvious case for initiating other kinds of action. The question which faces us therefore is not whether such action should be undertaken, but whether it should be undertaken by New World or some similar Group?
I am inclined to advise against any attempt by New World to become in effect, a political party, a Trades Union, a community association, or any organization of a kind that is looking for popular support and contending for power. I have three reasons for this. Two spring from what I hope are transient and incidental features of the Group; the other is inherent in its nature. The first reason is that I simply am not convinced that we have, as yet, anything better to offer than the institutions which already exist for the purposes outlined. We cannot simply ignore those who regard New World Quarterly and its associated publications as a parade of ignorance and naivete. It is true that we know precious little and even less about the Caribbean.
But we have acknowledged this and placed ourselves in a state of mobilization for hard work as a team. We have not been discouraged by an institution in which the characteristic responses to the corruption that was and is still all around us, are destructive gossiping, manoeuvring for office, working for individual advancement and mobility, or simply doing nothing.