FORUM: THE SUGAR QUESTION & NEW WORLD

Having examined the framework and some of its rules we must next look at the participants. The major protagonists are the Government Minsters, the New World critics and the Sugar Manufacturers’ Association. The debate is conducted through pamphlets, press releases, newspaper reports and articles, reports and discussions on radio and television, and public meetings of various sorts. These are the communications media, neutral for the most part but with the Gleaner newspaper as an important exception. Its editorial hostility to the University (which comes into the picture because of its New World and other connections) is becoming more and more intemperate. The tendency is to distort the communications flow, but in as much as the bias is known, the discriminating reader can sift its news content without being affected.

The issues are mechanisation on the farm, unemployment, land use, the distribution of freehold, foreign interests, and the falling terms of trade. Choice of crop as an aspect of land use has precipitated an objection to the continuation of the sugar trade, and this has reached the status of an issue in its own right. It has unfortunately eclipsed all other issues to the detriment of further analysis and the participants are categorised according to the stand they take on it – or seem to take, since over simplification and generalisation have already set in.

The SMA. and New World Group are split on every point save one – the need to mechanise. Awkwardly, the lone point that unites these two contenders divides them from the Government who have tied it to unemployment. The Government and the New World Group can maintain useful dialogues on all the other issues were it not for (a) the radical stance of the latter in a situation where the former is trying to justify gradualism, and (b) the impasse generated by differences over the superseding issue. This was probably inevitable since the Group has no internal lines of communication with the Government Ministers and are in effect attempting to short-circuit the traditional political processes The lines to the Cabinet either originate within the Government’s party organisation or flow in from the various influential groups in the nation – e.g. the Trade Unions, The Chambers of Commerce, the Manufacturers associations, etc. The important ones either are internal to the party in power or emanate from vested economic interest groups. Those with a stake in the social structure, such as the Federation of Jamaican Women, community organisations parent-teacher associations, and so on, are often accorded a hearing, but their influence is still more potential than real. Less direct access is provided by the newspapers, but apart from the fact that they act as highly selective filters, public opinion which has to rely exclusively on this medium reflects the writers’ lack of any important stake in the national structure.

In this respect our educated elite is no more privileged than his less educated compatriot. It is left to the individual to establish organic footholds in the society and to lay his claims on that basis. The New World Group represents a sophisticated departure from this configuration, a brave attempt to promote and direct change without its promoters necessarily deriving any benefit from it. They are ideologists, and providing they do not usurp the political function, can make a vital contribution to the nation’s development. Their role must be the dissemination of ideas and knowledge, the constant reappraisal of the national organisation so that the discrepancy between performance and potential may be made public knowledge, and the development of political maturity among the the citizenry. From political maturity will follow demands for the extension of democratic ideals which in tum will open new and more efficient channels of communications between the ruled and the rulers.