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The Crisis matures

Tennyson Joseph

The Crisis matures

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THE MOST frequently voiced criticism of this column is that its many assertions need further clarification. Whilst my normal response is to blame this on the NATION-imposed word limit, the maturing crisis demands a deeper answer.
Writing on June 14 on the crisis of neo-liberal development, I ended with the following words: “A critical moment has arrived. Neo-liberalism will be reversed, but only following a decisive moment of mass social democratic resistance.”
These words pricked the curiosity of fellow columnist Wild Coot, who demanded clarification whilst mischievously claiming that I was calling for an “Arab spring”.
To the Wild Coot, my answer is that my comments were neither prophetic nor inflammatory, but historical. They were based on the reading of current structural realities and my limited knowledge of how similar historical crises have resolved themselves in the past. I can only borrow from Trotsky who, when accused of instigating social upheaval, would defend himself by saying that “the justification for the mass uprising is the mass uprising itself”.
The word crisis has been used in this column before and, quite rightfully, demands have been made to clarify its meaning. In response to my A Structural Crisis (December 7, 2010), the president of the Chamber of Commerce, Andy Armstrong, in a private conversation, noted that whilst the article described the condition, it offered no solution.
This is true, and fair, largely because, as hinted in the article, in moments of crisis solutions only emerge after periods of qualitative political transformation.
The very nature of a crisis implies that the old, once successful approaches need to be overthrown. This is easier said than done, as hinted by the Minister of Finance, in response to demands for downsizing.
There are too many vested interests in keeping the old order for a country to simply “verbally agree” itself out of a crisis. What Barbados faces now is a moment of qualitative change where the old political economy has collapsed, while the new one has not yet emerged.
In such moments, technical solutions have no place, but must await the settlement of structural questions.
This can only take place at the level of politics, not by talk or by wishful thinking.
Indeed, the current debate has seen no shortage of technical solutions. The private sector calls for the reform of “inefficient government”; progressives call for a modern, non-traditional private sector; the political parties blame each other; everyone agrees that the economy must be diversified; “everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die”, to paraphrase Peter Tosh.
This confusion is typical of any crisis, anywhere, anytime. To call for a contestation between contending forces is not a clarion call for upheaval. It is to recognise that before the new order emerges, the old one must die.
Please, don’t shoot the messenger.
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus specialising in analysis of regional affairs. Email [email protected]