Saturday, 20 December 2008

The Confusion of the Caribbean Left

Can the rough equivalent of the Greek riots occur in the Caribbean?

Of course! In some ways, mindless, uncoordinated revolt and its cynical manipulation by short-sighted politicians has been with us for some time now.

There is no doubt that the “popular” uprisings in Trinidad in 1970 and the bloody electoral encounters of Jamaica in the 1980s brought together such forces with varying degrees of broader social progress (or regression). I might even add the adventurism of Maurice Bishop and his crew between 1979 and 1983 contained important elements of this phenomenon.

There is absolutely no doubt that public opinion is decisively not in favour of the current government in Greece (though the ruling party won parliamentary elections last year ... by a slim majority).

Recent austerity measures, reports of corruption and nepotism, rising unemployment and the razor-thin parliamentary majority (down to one seat now) have conspired against the government in a substantial manner.

It is not good enough to make the kind of naive students' union assertions I have been hearing in this and several other contexts including the current waves of official thuggery in Venezuela and Zimbabwe. I even heard the opposition leader in Greece (he addressed the Global Forum for Media Development I attended in early December) speak of the street violence as being reflective or the product of "the violence of unemployment."

This kind of metaphorical contortion has been used conveniently by dictators everywhere and is a dangerous linguistic tool that can come back to bite you in the backside. Remember Maurice Bishop? This was certainly a road to Hell paved with good intentions and lots of fancy words. Who is to say Coard et al weren't 'defending' some revolution?

Yes, I saw the older hands in Athens, but they weren't the ones burning and looting, they had someone else do the dirty work for them. Some of my colleagues asked several youngsters what exactly was their cause and all that was regurgitated was the kind of ready-made orthodoxy your some analyses have been spewing uncritically and almost mindlessly.

Europe, as is the case almost everywhere else, needs socialism to address its problems. But they have to find a way to do it that is far less naive and, as a consequence, dangerous.

Caribbean ‘left-wing’ endorsement of everything that sounds ‘progressive’ wherever they are heard is not helping the cause of socialism in the region. The failure of our ‘left’ to roundly condemn thuggery in Venezuela, heartlessness in Zimbabwe and youthful vandalism in Athens will come back to haunt us in time to come.

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