Saturday, April 20, 2024

ALL AH WE IS ONE: PM’s capitulation


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In his contribution to the 2014-2015 Estimates, the Prime Minister of Barbados gave one of his most important speeches since the election of the Democratic Labour Party in January 2008.  
What was important about the speech was not its treatment of the economic situation, since Freundel Stuart himself admitted that he had by choice avoided discussing figures. Perhaps! But its importance lay in the fact that a leader of a ruling regional government saw it necessary to present a philosophical perspective on the place of social democracy given the present global realities.
However, precisely because of the importance of the speech, it proved to be extremely disappointing particularly for the working people of Barbados and the region.  
Stuart, after presenting an overview of global political economy since 1945, and after highlighting the importance of the trade union/political party “social partnership” in transforming Barbadian social and economic life from its colonial condition, concluded that we are now living in the victory of capital. After declaring that the real question for us is how do we continue with a social democratic agenda in this era, Staurt offered his characteristic silence and failed to provide an answer.  
What was particularly disappointing was the fact that a leader of a social democratic party in a period of crisis of capitalism appeared to be capitulating to the doctrine that any adjustments must be borne at the expense of the policies, institutions, ideas and frameworks which had hitherto offered protection to the poor and the powerless.
 More importantly, in his capitulation, no acknowledgement was made of the fact that the options which were now being described as unworkable were the very approaches which had transformed Barbados from an exploited colonial backwater to a modern economy and society.
Trapped in the confusion of having no answers to the requirements for a reconstituted social democratic agenda, there were many times when it was unclear whether Stuart was merely describing or was celebrating the defeat of social democracy.
For example, he declared that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher gave us final proof that we can do away with trade unions. Similarly, he declared that we only had strikes in the 1990s because we had no Social Partnership . . . .
The most dismal aspect of the speech was that the Prime Minister seemed to be meekly acknowledging the complete irrelevance of both the political party and the trade union as instruments for the protection of workers.  
It is therefore time for a constituent assembly of progressive social democrats, to refashion a response to the crisis of capital, since our political and union leaders seem overawed by a so-called victory of capital, ironically in an era when capitalism is in its deepest crisis.


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