The Struggle for Freedom

CHAPTER 12
BARROW AND THE NEW LOOK

It is not surprising, then, that the Grand Old Man was so easily supplanted by the Young Turks of the Democratic Labour Party in 1961. Yet even then, it was not, in any real sense, a new ideological direction that took over. The new Premier, Mr Errol Barrow, and his colleagues sought less to socialize the economy than to modernize it, which is not necessarily the same thing. The sugar question was met by the standard device of appointing yet another commission of enquiry, whose recommendations referred more to the managerial and organisational aspects of the industry, rather than to the problem of ownership and control. The new Development Plan, with its attempt to avoid the new economic imperialism of the foreign investor, so harshly apparent in Puerto Rico, brought new ideas to the discussion of the Barbadian economic problems, hardly the strong point of Adams. However, it remains to be seen whether, short of an outright socialist policy, the following will be enough in themselves to prevent the growth of a Puerto Rican-style neo-colonial capitalism. These include government shareholding in key industries, the acquisition of plantation tenantries for resale to tenant occupiers, and the encouragement of local banks, (in order to counteract the colonial banking system in which credit policy and interest rates, as well as the effective use of internal savings have been determined from outside), The historic agricultural base of the
economy certainly is both psychologically and financially inadequate and, being already fairly fully developed, cannot hope to expand commensurately with a growing population. There remain tourism, light industry, and emigration. Of those, tourism creates its own special problems, as local legislative debate illustrates. Emigration, in its turn, depends so much on good relations with the receiving countries that Barbadians of all shades of opinion become alarmed when emigrants, as in the farm labour scheme of the United States, renege on their contractual obligations. In the typically Barbadian conceit, they utterly misconceived that Americans anxiously wait upon Barbadian workers to perform tasks for them.

Trapped within this framework, the main concern of the Barrow modernizing elite has been their effort to strike a new note of urgency against Barbadian complacency. Basically, they seek to create a revitalized infrastructure necessary to economic growth, a task traditionally neglected by the usual United Kingdom aid programmes, more concerned with social welfare purposes than with new productive projects. There has been a ruthless re-examination of a variety of defects: medieval work practices in an economy of casual labour, an internal trade structure that sacrifices the labourer, living on credit, to local shopkeeper, middleman and Bridgetown merchant; and educational snobbery which encourages in all social classes the anti-social conviction that a child must attend snob secondary school even if it only comes out with a certificate in Scripture studies; Civil Service lackadaisical work habits; and much else . A new emphasis has been placed upon the urgent need for Barbadian labour task force, at every level, to acquire new skills by which it can begin to command the external market, after the fashion of the modern Swiss and Israeli economies. Along with that there has gone a campaign to modernise the machinery of government . At the local government level, there are the inefficiency and excessive administrative costs of the relatively recent (1958) council system, a system possibly without justification in a tiny body politic with a population of less than 250,000. At the islandwide level, modern-mided Barbadian leadership faces  the task of revamping a public administration structure designed for colonial ends; the office of the Premier, to take an example only, today imposes upon its occupant a complex of duties fifty times greater than those that confronted the former British officials who, for themselves enjoyed the support of a staff four times the size of the one that the Premier presently uses. More generally, there is a new official spirit of dissatisfaction with the Barbadian self-congratulatory ethos of “muddling through”. That spirit is ready to learn from models other than the British. Men like Barrow, Crawford, Walcott are modernists striking a new note in the territorial life. By any genuinely socialist norms, it is not revolutionary. After all, what it stands for is essentially what a progressively-mided local businessman like K.R. Hunte stands for. It sees government, basically, as a  galvanizing pacesetter to the private sector, not anything more. But for Barbados, which moves slowly any time, it is perhaps all that can presently be absorbed.
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More generally, there is a new official spirit of dissatisfaction with the Barbadian self-congratulatory ethos of “muddling through”. That spirit is ready to learn from models other than the British. Men like Barrow, Crawford, Walcott are modernists striking a new note in the territorial life. By any genuinely socialist norms it is not revolutionary. After all, what it stands for is essentially what a progressively-minded local businessman like K.R. Hunte stands for. It sees government, basically, as a galvanising pacesetter to the private sector, not anything more. But for Barbados, which moves slowly at any time, it is perhaps all that can presently be absorbed.

educational snobbery which encourages in all social classes, the anti-social conviction that a child must attend a snob secondary school, even if it only comes out with a certificate in Scripture studies, civil service lackadaisical work habits; and much else. A new emphasis has been placed upon the urgent need for the Barbadian labour task force, at every level, to acquire new skills by which it can begin to command the external market, after the fashion of the modern Swiss and Israeli economies. Along with that there exists a campaign to modernize the machinery of government. At the local government level, there are the inefficiency and excessive administrative costs of the relatively recent (1958) council system, a system possibly without justification in a tiny body politic with a population of less than 250,000.

At the island-wide level, modern-minded Barbadian leadership faces the task of revamping a public administration structure designed for colonial ends. The office of the Premier, to take an example only, today imposes on its occupant a complex of duties fifth times greater than those that confronted the former British officials. For themselves, these officials enjoyed the support of a staff four times the size of the one that the Premier presently uses.

example, have argued, more optimistically, that as a new emerging class structure, reflecting the new political dominance of the educated coloured group in the society, solidifies itself, it obliterates the old meaning of race as a defining boundary line. To a great extent that, of course, is so. What has taken place, as Mack points out, is the emergence of status aggregates, composed of persons similar in income, education, religion, and amount of social power,

CHAPTER 13
CLASSES VS MASSES

For it would require a fidelista hurricane to change Barbados overnight. It remains, despite the Democratic Labour Party “wind of change”, a mixture of class privilege, genteel respectability and Trollopian institutional conservatism, with a new element of intruding American wealth. If one accepts Mr. Dooley’s witticism that the Americans defeat their enemies while the British disqualify them, Barbadian society could be seen as a collection of various disqualification exercises, an exemplar of games theory, English style. Subtle discriminatory walls continue to separate whole groups from each other. For the Negro populace, there are the rum shop and the Pentecostal meeting hall. For the middle bracket people, it is the secrecy of home life, for their public expressions are still hesitant, constituting, in Judge Vaughan’s phrase, “a series of angry mutterings behind closed doors”. This is the well-known Barbadian middle class tactic of withdrawal While the top elite, British demi-residents, creole upper-class whites, the merchant princes, occupy areas like the St. James “Platinum Coast.” Nor does a sense of colour fraternity transcend these essentiallv class barriers based on economic considerations. It is doubtful, speaking now only of “white” Barbados, if the white English engineer, out on contract, living the sort of dull expatriate life described in Derek Bickerton’s Tropicana, would ever get to mix with either the local planters or with members of the “jet set” of wealthy British refugees like the ex-Ranee of Sarawak. It is equally doubtful if any well-to-do white person would dream of mixing with the Barbadian “Redlegs”, the “poor whites” of St. John’s Parish who, as they cling to their pathetic snobberies of race, constitute one of the saddest anachronisms of the local scene. And there are other social curiousa. There is the sartorial snobbery of the Barbadian gentleman, including the Labour persuasion. As a St. Lucian critic put it, “embodied with reference to the Grantley Adams period, in the quite ludicrous sight to be seen on certain occasions celebrated by morning parades on the Garrison, when the cabinet of the socialist Government of Barbados is to be seen in the heat of a tropical sun, freely sweating in striped trousers, morning coat and top hat.” There is the mental snobbery of the Barbadian royalist to read the radio address in which the Minister of Education, in 1964, announced the impending arrival of the Duke of Edinburgh to the island, like nothing so much as a West Indian John Baptist preparing the way for the royal English Christ. This is to be made aware of a Barbadian reverence for the Monarchy long since in decline in England itself.

Not least of all, there is the snobbery, with all of its complex ramifications, of the local club system. In part, it is purely a social snobbery, not the least virulent in the innumerable fraternal organizations frequently obligated to some grand body in the United States, that cater to a gullible labouring class and the quarrels of whose leaders reach the Registrar of Friendly Societies with monotonous regularity. It is worth noting, here, that the predecessors of those organizations, a generation ago, such as the Barbadian “land ship” societies – described in George Bernard’s Wayside Sketches at that time- likewise catered, with their comic emulation of the elaborate naval ritual of the British Navy, to the same popular passion for empty form. In part, the snobbery here being discussed is, however, a racial snobbery, for there are still places of amusement that invoke their dormant legal status as “clubs” at the sight of coloured clients. The nasty Adie affair of 1957, in which a British official was pilloried for sending his daughter to a segregated private school, sickeningly revealed how Barbadians were prepared to use an unsuspecting white visitor as a scapegoat for a problem created by their own cowardice and evasiveness. Barbadians exercise a vast deal of ingenuity in the pretence that colour prejudice does not exist or that, if it does, it is of little account. But the fact that the Government party felt constrained in its 1961 Manifesto to announce open war on all the myths of colour superiority that promote the degradation of the social scene, to use the words themselves of the document, suggests that if, as the local self-image boasts, the matter is dead, it refuses, oddly, to lie down. And not the least pathetic footnote to this is the curious observation of one local writer, undoubtedly reflecting the subservience of many coloured elements, that the best solution to the colour problem “appears to be the emergence of enlightened white leaders, which is almost impossible.”

Visiting American sociologists, Mack for example, have argued, more optimistically, that as a new emerging class structure, reflecting the new political dominance of the educated coloured group in the society, solidifies itself, it obliterates the old meaning of race as a defining boundary line. To a great extent that, of course, is so. What has taken place, as Mack points out, is the emergence of status aggregates, composed of persons similar in income, education, religion, and amount of social power,which cut across the old racial boundaries. But two critical points must be made about this line of argument. In the first place, the process can hardly be said to have completed its course, any more than integration has been completed in American society. Much of it, in Barbados as in the United States, is a token integration only, so that the decision of one of the last white clubs in Bridgetown to invite the Premier, as a coloured person, to membership by no means signals the end of the club system. Secondly, it is difficult to accept the thesis, advanced by Mack, that all this is part of a “democratic revolution”. For a process that gives the privilege of class categorization, as distinct from racial categorization, only to those persons whose income or educational qualifications can effectively claim the privilege is, in effect, a process of gross social inequity. In the Barbadian environ¬ment, this is nothing much more than a process for promoting the transformation of the small percentage of educated professional mulattoes into an “in-group” in alliance, for all of their radical political rhetoric, with the older established interests. It may mean, certainly, the decline of racial discrimination. But it is arguable as to whether discrimination based on social class considerations, can be considered more morally reputable or socially equitable. It leaves the social and economic subjection of the Negro mass virtually unchanged. From their viewpoint, indeed, barely clinging to the bottom rungs of the social ladder, the new coloured presbyter is, but old white priest writ large.