So rapid is the pace of change in the Caribbean and within the New World Movement that today, not six months after our Annual General Meeting, I feel that some assessment of ourselves is necessary. The chief result of our Annual General meeting in November was the decision to work with others toward a Newspaper. Today that newspaper is a reality. In Trinidad, the New World Group has been rent by a split involving a founder of the Group and its current Chairman, with the apparent result of severe demoralisation and confusion. Guyana has had a fraudulent election and in its aftermath, the New World Group there has been resurrected. Anguilla has been the latest Caribbean parish to experience open metropolitan intervention, with Caribbean collusion.
For us, the significant developments have been the emergence of Moko and Abeng, And the circumstances of their emergence have been instructive. The turning point was the Rodney affair, which precipitated University students onto the stage of regional politics in sudden and dramatic fashion. The resulting reaction from the West Indian establishment in Jamaica and Trinidad, led by the press, brought home to us the ability of the communications media to isolate us and prevent the West Indian people from getting news and information which would reveal to them the possibilities of composite and collective political action on both the national and regional fronts. It became clear to us-simultaneously in Jamaica and Trinidad-that if the issues raised by the student demonstrations and their aftermath were to be seen not as a quarrel between University and Governments but rather as questioning the whole structure of West Indian polity and society, then some regular medium of communication between radical elements at the University and in the rest of the society would be needed.
The mechanics that then took place are a lesson in the dialectic of regional politics. In order to counter the press offensive Scope was published on the Mona campus, and copies sent to Trinidad provided the material and the inspiration for the initiation of Moko a fortnightly review. The example of Moko in turn helped to show us in Jamaica that a newspaper was indeed a real possibility – Moko was an important factor in inspiring Abeng. The latter is a weekly mass newspaper whose example has, in tum stimulated Moko to plan to become the same. The unplanned similarity of these developments, interacting with one another, and the remarkable unity of thought and action displayed by University students in Trinidad, Guyana, Barbados and Jamaica on issues such as Rodney and the Sir George Williams affair, show the inherent possibilities of regional political movements along the same lines. Federation from below, as it were.
Both Moko and Abeng have drawn heavily on the reserve of intellectual work and experience in publication developed by the New World Movement. When radicals became political activists in the so’s and early 6o’s they turned to Marxist Socialism, Garveyisrn, or C.L.R. James’ “Party Politics” to give their radicalism a coherent definition. Best has argued that the uncritical adoption of Marxist-socialism in Guyana by the P.P.P. contributed to racial conflict. In Jamaica it was demoralised by the failure of Hart’s People’s Freedom Movement to generate popular support in the so’s and by the abortion of the Young Socialist League in 196s. Millard Johnson’s Garveyism suffered a defeat at the Jamaica polls in 1962, as did C.L.R James’ own brand of radical politics in Trinidad in 1966. Each was, in its own way, inadequate in its understanding of West Indian reality and therefore unsuccessful in mobilising the population to which they addressed themselves.
Marxist socialism-as articulated by the P.P.P. and the P.F.M. – draws its life from the conditions of 19th and early 20th century Europe and from the specific needs of the Soviet state. Millard Johnson’s attempt was ‘a “fly-by-night” venture, preoccupied with the game of electoral politics and empty of systematic understanding of the composite experience of the Jamaican people and the political and economic changes (not necessarily progress) which had taken place since Garvey. Johnson might have been a bad exponent of Garveyism. But Garveyism is in turn inadequate in engaging the energies of a region which includes aboriginal Indians, East Indians, Chinese and Europeans all in a state of subjugation to North Atlantic capitalism; and which moreover includes a French, Spanish and Dutch colonial experience as well as the English. Garveyism does not in any case set out to do that. C.L.R. James “Party Politics” is superficial and too preoccupied with the author’s personal problems with Williams – features which characterised in many ways the adventure of the Workers and Farmers Party in Trinidad.
All of which goes to say that these radical political attempts had intellectual bases which were at best inadequate and at worst irrelevant. It is this deficiency which New World has, in its own small way, been trying to make good since 1963. What has been happening since then is that “the generation born since Moyne” to quote Best, “has now come of age”. It is the mass of that generation-the unemployed youth and the students which today provide the main social force for change in the region. And it is that infinitessimally small fraction of that generation in and around the University which is faced with the task of articulating and defining the nature of our condition and the specific possibilities for social and economic reconstruction.
New World has helped provide the loose association within which the reasoned discourse, and the publication, necessary to this task could be carried out. Politics in Guyana, Trinidad, St. Vincent, Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, the economics of sugar, unemployment, bauxite and industrialisation-these and many others have been dealt with by the publications and public meetings of the Group; and they have helped to provide Moko and Abeng with a great deal of their initial intellectual endowment And the experience and self-discipline in running a publication acquired by many persons in New World proved vital in the formation of these papers.
Yet the immediate effect of these two papers has been to weaken New World. In the Jamaica Group, the difference in New World meetings before and after the commencement of Abeng has been striking. Between October and January, we had weekly meetings on highly topical subjects which were well attended, and discussion was lively. Since January and Abeng the frequency of and the attendance at our meetings have fallen off, and discussion has been lackadaisical.
The reasons for this are simply that many New World members have switched their activity to Abeng. Most would recognise that it is possible and probably desirable to be active in both. But Abeng is very time consuming and many may simply not have the time to be active in both. Also, Abeng comes off the Press on Thursday night which is the same time we have our own meetings.
But the reasons may in fact run deeper. Prior to Abeng the New World Group provided an outlet for the energies of people who were interested in engaging in social protest and actively agitating for social change. It was the pressure from such people which was responsible for the Group’s growing involvement in popular pamphleteering and “Teach-Ins”. Now that Abeng is doing this, but doing it much better, the Group has lost much of the impetus and the personnel it derived from this kind of activity. In that event, is there a need for the New World at all?
I believe that this development, and the simultaneous development of Moko in Trinidad, has strengthened the need for the New World Group, or rather the activity of self-education to which the Group was originally dedicated. It is true that we have done work- much of it influential -in politics and economics. But one effect of this work has been to expose the enormous deficiencies in our knowledge of ourselves. And these deficiencies are many.
One such gap relates to our failure to understand what our artists are saying about the Caribbean condition, how they perceive the nature of human relationships in our region and how they react to what we have to say. It was intended that the Sunday seminars on the Arts in the Caribbean Today would give us the opportunity to begin this process. It is revealing that at the most four or five of our members have been involved in these discussions and of these some are, in any case, practising artists. It shows how well we have absorbed the Anglo-Saxon tradition that History, Politics, Economics and Drama, Theatre and Poetry are all to be placed in watertight compartments and never meet, much less mesh. At the end of the year we can proudly boast seven successful seminars, but what will we have learnt from them?
The deficiencies, moreover, go further than that. We know a little about political change since the 1938 upheaval, but we still lack a sense of historical process which is based on a knowledge of the many attempts to change the system, the achievements and limitations of each attempt. We have little appreciation of the experience of the Spanish, French and Dutch Caribbean; and most of us are ignorant of the experience of the Aboriginal Indians, the East Indians and the Chinese who were, like the Africans, either decimated or uprooted m the service of the plantation system. For that matter, we have made little attempt to get to know the societies of West Africa, India, China and Java which were the mother cultures of our complex matrix.
The point is more than academic; in fact, is not academic at all. 6000 Anguillans have done what no other English-speaking West Indian have ever dared to do – declare their independence in the face of overwhelming military odds. If, today, the limit of their demands is a Colonial Commissioner who is black and West Indian instead of one who is white and English then the fault is only partly theirs. The rest of the Caribbean has failed totally to provide them with the support which would permit them to make the break with the colonial system a dean one. Haiti made her break one hundred and seventy years ago and is still tied willy-nilly, to the inter-American system. Beckford and Best have already made the point with respect to Cuba. If the entire Caribbean, and not simply one parish, is to confront the North Atlantic, then we must be equipped with an ideology, and an understanding, with which the people of the whole region can engage. That, as I see it, is our task. I find it a challenging and exciting one. To further that end I propose that we work out a draft programme of reading and discussion sessions.