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ALL AH WE IS ONE: Divided moment


ALL AH WE IS ONE: Divided moment

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THE NEWS that the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) had met with the deliberate intent of providing concrete suggestions to the country’s deep economic challenges suggested strongly that the business sector was no longer willing to avoid a political intervention. Behind the overt announcement of technical recommendations to the crisis was a signal of urgency, impatience and the ruffling of political feathers, a hint of future activism.

When coupled with the actions of an already restive trade union movement, the pre-election activity of the official Opposition, and the sustained interventions of community activists, intellectuals and public commentators, Barbados is beginning to witness the coalescing of a fragile political moment borne by the underlying economic crisis. A potentially revolutionary moment currently exists in Barbados.

But herein lies the problem. By the same token that a potentially revolutionary moment exists, the potential for conservatism, reversal and a worsening of the condition for the majority now presents itself as a real possibility.

It is for this reason that the current moment in Barbados can more truly be described as a “divided moment”, the resolution of which can only be determined by the concrete political and economic developments of the next few months and years.

What are the features of this divided moment? The main one is the reality that whilst everyone agrees that we are in a moment of deep crisis, there is no consensus on the way forward. Put differently, each of the major groups is using the moment to push for its own preferred outcome, while all the time claiming to be speaking in the interest of Barbados as a whole. It is every man for himself, yet claiming patriotism.

This should not be surprising. Often, moments of general collapse are moments of supreme opportunism. Although everyone claims to be motivated by “love of country”, everyone wants the crisis to “work for them”.

The signs of the division in the moment are all around us. The private sector, oblivious to the social consequences, wishes to see an end to “entitlement”, but welcomes privatisation, which transfers public goods to private hands. Is this not entitlement? Rightfully, the trade union movement views with suspicion the callous calls for layoffs and trimming the public sector.

Within the union, the universities and civil society as a whole there are deep divisions on the way forward, driven both by differences in ideological orientation, but more often by partisan alliances. The Government is concerned with regime survival, the Opposition with regime change.

This moment of deep contestation will remain a fixture until the economic crisis is resolved. With its end will come profound transformations in class and property relations. There will be winners and losers.

We are therefore in a moment of class conflict. No amount of pretence can deny this reality.

• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email: [email protected]