ALL AH WE IS ONE: Second independence
The week marking the 46th anniversary of Barbadian independence, coming in the jubilee year of English-Speaking Caribbean independence, provides an opportune time for stocktaking.
In contrast to those who barely conceal their contempt for our legitimate aspirations to self-determination, our reflection consciously rejects the nostalgic yearning for a return to European overlordship.
Instead, our reflection is grounded in the mature recognition that independence is an ongoing struggle, fraught with difficulty. Reversal, however, is not synonymous with defeat. While we acknowledge that the specific post-1960 independence social contract has exhausted itself, and while we accept the present challenges as unprecedented, the situation demands that the existing generation of genuine Caribbean patriots avoid despair and identify a way forward.
In this regard, we have little choice but to turn our collective attention to the pursuit of the integration option. We must reflect on why federation became the road not taken, and we must reflect on whether we have not come full circle back to the federal idea. Our second independence must put the federal Humpty Dumpty back up on his wall.
Secondly, we must identify new organisational vehicles through which the new integration project will be launched. We must consider deeply why it is that a region with an illustrious tradition of grass roots political activism has never conceived the necessity of organising, in a sustained and meaningful manner, a Caribbean Integration Party.
Relatedly, we must resolve that the political party, as presently constituted, must be put aside forever. Whilst in our context the political party emerged as the vehicle through which the disenfranchised masses could register their voices on the political landscape, today, 40 and 50 years after independence, it has become nothing but a crude and blunt instrument for one section of society to disenfranchise and marginalise the other section of the society. When it falls into the wrong hands, it is no different from any other petty criminal organisation.
A critical task going forward will be to imagine and create the new forms of political organisation, more democratic, more inclusive, and better suited to the times.
Finally, we must make an inventory of all the old questions and demands that sparked the first independence revolution and produce a balance sheet of what was achieved, what failed, what is passé and what is still essential. That inventory will constitute the political programme of the second revolution.
Overcoming racism; social protection of the vulnerable; majority control of the economy; deepening democracy; fashioning a more relevant constitution – all must be placed on the agenda along with new issues like the defence and protection of the environment and the fight against corruption, drugs and money laundering.
Significantly, the second independence revolution can adopt, with little modification, the slogan of the old: Agitate, Educate and Federate.
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specializing in regional affairs.