The Struggle for Freedom

CHAPTER 16
THE PARADOX OF PRIDE AND SELF-CONTEMPT

The analogy collapses, of course, at the point of political identity. Hawaii launched a militant campaign for statehood. Barbados, by contrast, undertook no similar campaign for independence. It took, rather, the line of least resistance, founded on the Adams deference to Colonial Office “leadership”. Membership in the West Indies Federation made, as with others, for further delay, while after 1962, time was wasted in the continuing, futile effort to organize, once again under British guidance, some sort of Eastern Caribbean federal structure. It was only in 1965 that the Barbadian leadership finally released itself from that thraldom to demand outright independence alone. This was posited on the general principle that the contrivance of federal constitutions had been for the past one hundred years, an inevitable act of final absolution performed by departing British officialdom and followed, almost without exception, by the subsequent collapse of the schemes. The London psycho¬¨-complex of the Adams school has finally given way to a new note of nationalist self-help. Men like Barrow, Crawford and Walcott use a language of cosmopolitan reference quite new, whether they are debating the “small island” complex, the need to take non-British small economies as models for economic development, British immigration policies, the continuing mercantilism of British trade policies, or the question of Caribbean unity. The remark of the late T.T. Lewis, that in Barbados the sincerity of a white man’s behaviour is rarely taken for granted, clearly looks like becoming part of the burgeoning Barbadian foreign policy. It would certainly be difficult to imagine Mr. Barrow repeating Sir Grantley’s observation, when he was in power, that the visit of Sir Harold MacMillan, as British Premier, to the island constituted the greatest event in West Indian history since Emancipation. At the same time, the new leadership helps create a new political style, so that the malicious scandal-mongering of Barbadian political meetings, encouraged as it has been both by the cultural and political illiteracy of the mass audience and the peculiar double-member constituency system, is gradually giving way to the PNM mode of serious political discussion.

There is, finally, a new note of self-¬¨confidence. Barbadians increasingly believe that they can “go it alone”, that they can now manage on the basis of Sir Keith Walcott’s observation that it is better to govern yourself badly than to be governed by somebody else. There is a new conviction, summed up in the important speech of the Leader of the House in August 1963, that Barbados already possesses the four essential prerequisites for independence. They were identified as a sense of national unity, political experience based on democratic foundations, administrative capacity in the form of a seasoned civil service structure and a sound economy. Barbadian conservatism will certainly continue to resist that line of argument. But theirs is certain to be a weak minority outlook, especially as local public opinion begins to realize that the “mother country” is increasingly disinterested in filial affection. In that respect, the local reaction to the racialist immigration regulations promulgated in 1965 by the British Labour Government suggests that Barbadian public opinion is rapidly shedding its traditional Anglophilism under the pressure of unpleasant realities. It is a harsh medicine. But in the long run, it can only do good. Deprived of the British protective umbrella, Barbadians will learn to fend for themselves under the Caribbean sun.