V. The Neo-Colonnial Model ln Outline
What Independence brought was a return to the traditional model For, as will be shown later, there has been a pronounced tendency to be content with only such possibilities of change as could be exploited within. the framework of traditional colonial relationships. In point of fact, the only major deviation from a strictly colonial model has been the displacement of the imperial administration by a national class of political managers.
It Is essential at this point to outline the formal properties of this neo-colonial model of traditional Caribbean relationships. Such an outline provides a background against which to understand developments in Trinidad and Tobago since the country gained its political freedom in August 1962 and against which to make clear the connection between these developments and the pre-Independence campaign for Chaguaramas and Federation. Naturally, the model here sketched, is not by any means intended to reflect the reality in all neo-colonial Caribbean territories or even in any single one. It is meant simply to highlight some of the structural features and working relationships by which these territorial systems are characterised.
On the ideological plane, there ls a strong bias towards materialism. Economic growth is given the highest priority among the objectives of the territory. On the whole, social change and cultural development are left to work themselves out somehow in the vague hope that the process of economic growth will automatically solve most problems. Hence progress is virtually synonymous with a successful economy and it is the rate of growth of per capita national income, for all the lip service paid to its inadequacy for the purpose, which is in fact taken as the measure.
The simplest way to increase income being to exploit the advantages of a metropolitan connection, the major operational premise of the model is that it places a high premium on such a connection. A particular significance is ascribed to the United States of America as a potential source of economic assistance though the calculation is affected by the knowledge that the North American Goliath wishes the whole Caribbean to fall within its sphere of Influence and possesses the military resources to make a reality of those wishes. At any rate, the result ls that the typical Caribbean country almost automatically accepts without question the Papal Donation – the division of the world into two camps – and takes as another fundamental premise of all policy, a continuing dependence on countries in the friendly camp.
Along with the other premises, this leads automatically to the acceptance of the metropolitan military presence in the territory and once the responsibility for defence has been assigned to the metropolitan authorities. independence Is qualified and assumes little. more than a formal constitutional meaning.
As a corollary, it ls accepted as natural and even desirable that the rhythm and style of life in the territory should be dominated by events in the metropolis. Events In neighbouring territories are· considered unimportant and irrelevant. Even where and when events in areas outside the metropolis are brought to bear on the local situation, they are first passed through a metropolitan filter, most of the territories being generally cut off from direct communication with the wider world. Thus not only is the dynamic in economic and political’ affairs supplied from the metropolitan centre. But inevitably, the social structure and the pattern of culture reflect: not so much metropolitan standards and values as the distortions of them produced by the particular quality of the colonial relation and by the day-to-day servicing of that relation by a two-way movement of transients. Yet, in whatever way the metropolitan cultural dominance expresses itself, the ruling elite, even when it acquires its position by an appeal to local sentiment and popular support, is able to retain the position only lf It is able to receive metropolitan sanction and to manipulate metropolitan symbols of high rank.
Most of the Caribbean territories have approximated to this model in greater or less degree: Cuba before the Revolution, Jamaica, San Domingo, Trinidad, Venezuela, Surinam. It is Puerto Rico, however, which provides perhaps the purest illustration of the model in operation. In this case, not only has the restricted possibility of independence been clearly recognized by the administration and explicitly formalised in the title of llbre asociado. In addition, the political, economic and other properties of the model have been most clearly in evidence. Surinam is perhaps not far behind.
The most important economic aspect of the model is the high degree of integration it requires between the territorial and metropolitan markets both for factors of production and for goods. This integration expresses itself in many different ways: in the domination of production in the territory by large metropolitan companies, in the large share of metropolitan investment in total investment and in a heavy dependence of home production on special marketing arrangements in the metropolitan country.
Several other economic consequences flow from these features or are related to them. First, there is a large gap between Domestic Product and National Income, the difference going as income to the metropolis. But that is perhaps among the less important results. More important is that public policy comes to be closely circumscribed by the need to win and maintain the confidence of metropolitan investors. Hence, even if it is admitted that conscious regulation of the economy is necessary, only the types and degree of regulation sanctioned by investors will be practised In concrete terms, this restricts governments to public sector planning (as distinct from national or over-all planning) and to so-called infra-structural activity, largely in support of such investments as private industrialists – on their own criteria – decide to undertake.
Secondly, the over-riding requirements for investors’ confidence are often in conflict with the requirements for mobilising and allocating national resources and for the levelling out of social inequalities. It follows that severe limits are set on the use of monetary, fiscal, commercial and other instruments for the latter purposes. The conflict is sharpest in the case of exchange controls and taxation. When free convertibility is maintained and taxation set at lower rates than purely domestic conditions dictate. investors’ confidence is bought at the price of greater inequality and greater waste of national resources. Both of these latter are therefore prominent features or the model.
Thirdly, because or the top priority assigned to investors’ confidence, it can be seen that the Trades Unions are required to confine their role to “responsible” bargaining for increased wages and benefits. Clearly, they cannot concern themselves with the larger policy issues such as the choice or techniques of production and of forms of organisation etc., without seriously disrupting the system. Indeed, when they confine themselves solely to the role or bargaining, they simultaneously help to fulfil both national and international requirements of the model By increasing wages they both increase the national income at the expense of profits going abroad while on the international side, they achieve a harmony of interests with the metropolitan unions which completely dominate international labour organisations. To encourage such harmonisation, there are many rewards from international labour organisations for local Unions leaders who achieve it.
Another less well recognized consequence of the dependence on metropolitan investment is an inherent tendency towards unemployment. The inducement to metropolitan Investors is an “unlimited” supply of labour at low wage rates. However, the attraction of investment on these terms cannot really correct the situation for two reasons. First. a heavy inflow of investment, although at first causing the unemployment rate to fall, would soon tend to remove the condition for its continuation by forcing wages up especially in view of the requirements the model sets for Trades Unions’ behaviour). Secondly, since the technological dynamic is derived from metropolitan rather than local factor availabilities, the techniques employed would tend in general to require too little labour to clear the territorial market. Though these techniques could conceivably be adapted somewhat to take advantage of lower labour costs, the possibilities of adaptation could hardly be more than marginal. But even if they were, investors would tend to hedge against possible labour difficulties in an alien environment by minimising its use in production.
The final economic feature of the model which is worth noting here is its tendency to discriminate against regional economic collaboration. The importance assigned to investors’ confidence by itself discourages any widening of the area within which decisions have to be made. Such a widening tends to create uncertainty and to scare capital away because it enhances the possibility of political conflict. But in addition, the actual operations necessary for winning aid, for inducing the inflow of private capital, for acquiring specially favourable terms for the marketing of produce and for the exportation of surplus labour, cannot help but foster some beggar-my-neighbour attitudes. This tendency is most marked in the cases of incentive legislation and the arrangements for sale of primary exports, each territory hoping to profit at the expense of others. Collaboration is most easily achieved in those areas where (as in the case of sugar preferences) metropolitan businesses have a large interest in the arrangements.
The model also has quite definite constitutional biases. The general metropolitan orientation allows sanction only to those types of constitutional instruments which resemble those at the metropolitan centre, whether or not they permit a grappling with tasks to be accomplished at home. This results in an uncritical borrowing of the forms of Western parliamentary democracy. To put it another way, a constitutional arrangement is judged functional when it can win metropolitan confidence in general and investors’ confidence in particular. So that even when borrowed instruments happen to be appropriate to the tackling of local problems it is their symbolic potential rather than their operational possibilities which are most fully exploited.
One important consequence of this dysfunctional approach is that genuine opposition or dissent which seeks to relate ideology, policies, programmes and instruments to the needs and possibilities of the local environment – is automatically regarded as romantic, obscurantist or subversive. In turning inward, this kind of opposition violates a fundamental premise of the model. The types of opposition which, instead, are accorded legitimacy in the model, are of two types: first, naturally and as everywhere, opposition which merely offers itself as a more efficient alternative to those in power and which lives by tactical exploitation of the mistakes of the latter; and secondly, the less usual opposition which is based on some rival doctrine, which the metropolitan apparatus can analyse and comprehend, sanction and propagate if acceptable, disavow and control if undesirable. Both types of opposition are ineffective in bringing change but the second type is phony and particularly misleading.
An appreciation of the phony character of this second type of opposition provides an important clue to understanding the failure of most of the self-avowed anticolonial, ‘left-wing’ movements in the Caribbean (particularly the PPP in B.G., the PNP in Jamaica, and the Independentistas in ‘Puerto Rico). It also helps to identify the reasons why international political forecasters of both ‘left’ and ‘right’ misjudged so badly the political potential of the 26th of July Movement in Cuba.
One other feature of the model is the great importance assigned to bureaucratic initiative by the Governments in· developmental work. Paradoxically, although the model emphasises free enterprise and private initiative and lauds the virtues of the open society, a high degree of intervention and regulation by the State bureaucracy is nevertheless required for the model to work at all. The widespread discrimination in favour of metropolitan and against local participation in the operations which define the character of the situation result in alienation and inertia on the part of the people. Hence the State has constantly to be exhorting, bribing or coercing the population to conform to the specifications of the model. At the same time, it has regularly to intervene to protect popular interests against over-abuse of privilege. Concomitant with this large-scale activity on the part of the State is the virtual absence of functioning political parties and viable Local Self-Governmenl Central decision-making is found to be much more effcient in dealing with the external world. Carried to its logical conclusion, this feature requires a single leader to take charge of the apparatus of the State and to assume the role of Messiah who would save the people from the Infidel and defend them against hostile forces from within and without.
The ascendancy of metropolitan standards in the economic and political spheres has definite implications for both the status system and the cultural pattern. In this system, social status comes increasingly to be defined in relation to the metropolitan entrepreneurs who automatically occupy the top positions on the social ladder. Self¬government clears the field of the old metropolitan bureaucratic class while the pattern of economic growth ensures a decline in the comparative importance or any local propertied class.
At the same time, a new local class tends to emerge near the top, arrising naturally out of the bureaucratic and technocratic needs of the new industrial sector and the institutions established in the public sector to service its growth.
It may be thought that as this class springs from the operational needs of efficient business, owned and run by metropolitan entrepreneurs, the selection of its members would be based more on ability to perform than on the traditional criteria: colour, race, kinship connections, etc. Formally, this appears to be true. However, since the framework usually allows the judgment of performance to be influenced by the cultural biases of the businessmen concerned (or of the people dependent on or connected with them) this switch from traditional criteria is often more apparent than real. Thus, in the system the ability to perform, paradoxically, can become an ascribed characteristic, and loaded in the bargain, with the cultural prejudices of the North Atlantic business world.
In the cultural sphere, patterns are set by adaptations to the business ethos of a transient class of metropolitan entrepreneurs and managers reinforced by tourists if, as is likely, tourism is important. It is mostly this metropolitan class which determines the changes in the rules of cuisine, dress, working hours etc. And as the reward for conformity to these rules is not just personal advancement for a local class but also economic growth for the territory as a whole, the deviant is open to the charge of being anti-national.
This cultural domination by metropolitan birds of passage is to be seen above all, in the field of ideas. Both the colonial heritage and the small scale which characterise the typical Caribbean country would in any case make it easy for the intellectual dynamic to be injected from outside. The main defence against such a development could be found only in an economy, polity, and society which in its day to day functioning demands observation of the environment. From this observation will come the formulation of theoretical generalisations and then the design and redesign of instruments appropriate to the purpose of control.
The neo-colonial Caribbean territory, by virtue of opting for the simpler alternative of gaining cheap economic advantage by accepting and exploiting submissiveness to imperial power, cannot develop a scientific attitude even if it manages to develop an intellectual culture at all. Powerful informal rules restrict the application of the First principle of science: to make an exact observation of what is to be seen in the environment. Intellectual mimicry and fashion-following become the established mode and it is the undergraduate requirements of learning and reproduction which become the permanent style of the intellectual class. Only in rare cases is the transition made to maturity and the pursuit of original formulation. Indeed, an elaborate system of metropolitan rewards puts a premium on continued academic mimicry – just as in politics, metropolitan party apparatus makes it far easier to get acclaim by towing some metropolitan party line.
In those circumstances, educational institutions are all the more forced to manipulate the symbols of the scientific tradition. Hence, it is the academic paquotille – the gowns, the educational ceremony, the trinketry of science – and the parading of titles of learning which assume the greatest significance. The slight contribution which they make by way of universally valid generalisation derived from the study of their home environment, make it difficult for the Universities to justify their existence by reference to the universality of their work. They are forced instead to seek acclaim by other means such as the multiplication of schemes of collaboration with overseas institutions of higher learning and by the importation (rather than the production) of people of international calibre.
The character of the educational system feeds back and reinforces the neocolonial system as a whole. The failure of the Universities and schools to produce people with skills appropriate to the environment rather than with mere qualifications create precisely those conditions under which the ascription of merit to those favoured by metropolitan cultural prejudices can be pursued without inhibition. Moreover, by actually diverting resources from the articulation of development schemes based on proper examination of the possibilities of the home environment the system provides an indirect justification for the neo-colonial policy of overdependence on outside help and expertise.
Such then is the Caribbean-type nee-colonial model in outline. This brief sketch leaves for elsewhere many interesting aspects of the model. For example, it says nothing about – let alone explore – how smooth operation of the model results in a wasteful allocation of energies by the bunching o! individuals at two ends of a continuum. At one end, it calls for a set of Anansis who would take the required manipulation of people involved, ruthlessly but coolly in their stride; and that brings, at the other end, a polarisation of indignant hotheads who live by ostentatiously declaring their intention to liberate the workers and the country from this shameful humiliation. The number of people available for work that would define the character of the system and pose serious alternatives to it is thereby reduced. Thus it is important to be more fully aware of such effects of the model.
It is also important to deal with such questions, ignored in this sketch, as to what choices the small island-communities of the Caribbean region have other than this neo-colonial model. This is clearly an area for fuller exploration on some other occasion. What will now be set out in summary fashion, are some of the conditions !or the stability of the model.
Several conditions must be simultaneously fullilled among them, first, those which maintain the confidence of metropolitan investors and by extension, these also satisfy metropolitan political requirements; secondly, those which bring economic benefit to the territory. Thus for example, it is clear that, on the one hand, the territory must in general accept metropolitan leadership in foreign policy and on the other, the metropolis must sustain its demand for the territory’s exports and provide an emigration outlet for any unemployed it may have beyond a certain tolerable number.
It is clear too, that a certain specification of roles must be scrupulously respected. So that, if for example, organised labour were to concern itself with issues larger than bargaining for its share of the product; or it the national commercial classes were to develop an inordinate interest in manufacturing industry, or the :foreign entrepreneurial class too large a concern with import trade and distribution; or if Government were to wish to control the whole range of economic decisions; or if the national class of bureaucrats and technocrats were to develop a fresh new range of skills requiring for their utilisation a national assertion of initiative in planning; or if a scientifically oriented intellectual movement were to arise; or if some group were to begin a vigorous promotion of indigenous cultural practices; any of these would tend to introduce unwarranted stress into the system. While any single set of stresses might be contained without very serious consequences, the co-incidence of a number of them would be decidedly disruptive unless instruments of coercion were brought to bear to force “subversive” elements into line.
To state these conditions is in effect to imply that the adoption of this model was bound to result in instability in the context of an independent Trinidad and Tobago. It is true that in Trinidad and Tobago the economic features of the model had already begun to find favour with the administration which preceeded the PNM and that in fact, pioneer legislation had first been introduced as early as 1949. It is true too, that the model fitted well with the natural inclinations of a small colonial community and that its attractiveness was enhanced by the reference which could be made to the economic achievement of another Caribbean Island. And reference indeed, had been made by the most influential and authoritative economic analyst of the region at the time, when in his Industrial Development in the Caribbean, sponsored by the Caribbean Commission. Professor Arthur Lewis drew the attention of the English-speaking Antilles to the details of the Puerto Rican approach to economic growth. As has been noted earlier, Professor Lewis had been influential in shaping the first economic programme of the PNM so that presumably the Movement too, was drawn, at least initially and partially, towards the model.
Yet independent Trinidad and Tobago could not fulfil the conditions of stability. Even if the nationalist, reformist and populist forces normally unleashed by political independence could have been contained, many of the features of the model would sit uneasily with an administration which was ambivalent about its option for traditional relationships and which retained modernising propensities. The administration itself, had only shortly before independence, completed a political campaign in which it had encouraged large sections of the population to commit themselves to complete territorial and regional modernisation. This, if nothing else, made the instability of the model all the more certain.
The nee-colonial model fits best a “welcoming society” (as Jamaica has been termed) and suits a Government which is content merely to muddle through. But for a Government like that of Trinidad and Tobago to have chosen it, was the surest pledge of trouble. It is only if this is appreciated that the events of the period since 1962 begin to make a coherent story.