In Praise of Lesser Evils
Can Realism Repair Foreign Policy?
Division is the heritage of the Caribbean. The separateness of the islands in the archipelago that curves for a thousand miles from the tip of Florida to the mouth of the Orinoco is reflected in the fact that they have no common name. Each island shares with the others the same startling beauty of sun-drenched mountains and peacock seas; each has the same social configuration resulting from the same techniques of production, the intensive cultivation of one crop, and slavery. Yet the keynote is contrast, the dominant theme competition. One reason for this is that the archipelago extends over a great distance; if Port of Spain were to be placed where Savannah is, San Juan would fall on Indianapolis and Havana in northeastern Wyoming. But history, not geography, supplies the chief reason, for even those islands which lie within easy reach of each other turn their faces toward Europe and their backs on their neighbors. The rivalries of Western Europe broke the region into segments, each tightly integrated into the trading system of the metropolitan power, sealed off in an almost watertight compartment and stocked with people brought together from Europe, a score of West African kingdoms and the central provinces of India. Nowhere else in the New World is there so sharp a juxtaposition of different races, languages, religions-different legal, educational and political systems.
Yet the compelling need is to jettison the heritage of division. Will this be any easier now following the breakup of the Federation, when Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago are independent countries and seven or eight smaller islands are on the point of independence? Will the breaking of the last imperial ties with Britain mean that West Indians will reject insularity and parochialism and move closer to Latin America? Does West Indian independence signify the achievement of unity within multi-racial island communities and does it foreshadow a search for a larger regional unity? Does it mean that islands which have been linked with Britain for more than three centuries will now move finally into the orbit and under the protection of the United States? What, in fact, does West Indian independence mean? The West Indies is the name of an aspiration shared by three million English-speaking people scattered through the archipelago. These people have been slow in growing away from their Old World origins and in developing characteristic communities of their own, even though their earliest settlements belong to the Mayflower period. In the year when William Bradford was exclaiming at the wild desolation round about Plymouth, small bands of Englishmen were planting their first crops of tobacco in St. Kitts and fighting off fierce bands of Caribs. Roger Williams, in his "Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for the Causes of Conscience," was asserting that the basis of power lies in the people at the very period when Barbados was rejecting the laws of trade passed by Cromwell's parliament on the ground that there should be no legislation without representation. On the strength of sugar, the little islands forged ahead and became the centers of trade in the first British Empire, so much so that the powerful West Indian interests were contemptuous of the quarrelsome, struggling Yankees. They pointed with pride to the perfection with which the islands, their plantations, fitted into the imperial scheme, supplying Europe with tropical staples and furnishing a secure market for the goods of the mother country. Calculators and economists joined in the hymn of praise, "that the glory and grandeur of England has been advanced more by sugar than by any other commodity, wool not excepted." Yet the northern colonies became independent 160 years before their southern contemporaries in the Caribbean. When the floodgates of Europe opened and tens of thousands of Europeans-Irish, Scots, Dutch, Germans, Poles-poured into the United States, they entered a country that was independent, eagerly made it their home and gave it their loyalty. Over a longer period hundreds of thousands of West Africans from a score of nations and tongues- Iboes, Yorubas, Mandingoes, Coromantis, Efiks-were transported by force as "hands" into islands that were colonies, and tied to a plantation and an owner. Close behind them came tens of thousands of men and women, brought from the provinces of India to work on sugar estates as contract laborers. All these, Africans and Indians, were men who had lost a country.
So the independence of Jamaica and of Trinidad has a special meaning. It is a Declaration of Unity by people for whom the road to unity has been long and hard. Cradled in division, they have established two of the most remarkable multi-racial communities in the world. They are not based merely on tolerance, for that assumes something to be tolerated, or on acceptance, as if there were some problem to be overcome, some difficulty to be accepted; but rather on people truly learning to be part of each other without consideration of anything except natural human feeling, affection, respect. Undeniably tensions exist, but where do they not? West Indian independence is also a declaration of identity by uprooted people who yesterday lost a homeland and who today have found a country that commands their loyalty. It is a declaration of responsibility by people living in lands which were once regarded as places of exile. For most of their history the islands were valued as the outer defense works of a gate, to Cathay perhaps and to the South Seas. Even when sugar brought golden days the wealth produced in the islands served only to make it easier for the planter to return to his own home, so much so that a traveler in Jamaica in 1763 said that "the generality of its inhabitants look upon themselves as passengers only." Every war revealed the complete dependence of the islands on external markets for food and for cash. Two social revolutions, first the introduction and later the abolition of slavery, changed West Indian society radically and each originated outside of the region. Responsibility always lay elsewhere. With the assumption by the West Indians of complete responsibility for their own future, a new period in West Indian history has begun.
Even in the act of making this declaration, the Jamaican and Trinidadian regretted the recent failure to find a larger unity through the Federation of the West Indies. After 12 years of planning and persuasion, the Federation of the West Indies was established in 1958, only to be dissolved four years later. Jamaica, far removed from her sister islands in the eastern Caribbean, was large enough to feel self-sufficient, having more than one-half of the population of the Federation. Many Jamaicans feared that they would have to carry the burden of supporting the smaller and poorer islands, and, proud of the fact that they were already self- governing in internal matters, they did not wish their progress toward full independence to be slowed down by association with other islands whose constitutions were less advanced. Also, since a large part of the island's revenue came from customs duties, Jamaica was reluctant to enter into a customs union with the other islands. In admittedly difficult circumstances the weak Federal Government proved incapable of furnishing the imaginative and farsighted leadership that was required.
The end came in September 1961 when the people of Jamaica voted in a referendum against continuing in the Federation. Only 60 percent of the electorate voted, with 251,935 in favor of withdrawal and 216,400 against. The result was disastrous not only for the Federation but also for Norman Manley's People's National Party which was in power at the time. It had defeated Sir Alexander Bustamante's Labor Party in 1955 and again in 1960, when it won 29 out of the 45 seats. During its term of power the People's National Party generated a new dynamism in government, established many of the financial institutions that a developing country needs, carried out extensive educational reforms that opened secondary education to every child with ability, negotiated a new and far more profitable agreement with the bauxite companies, attracted capital by incentive legislation and set the economy on the road to self-sustaining growth. This intense drive produced social dislocations. As in every developing country, the gap widened between the skilled and the unskilled, and between the country and the town. The leaders of government began to lose touch with the country folk. So, on a wave of popular enthusiasm whipped up by Sir Alexander's anti-federation campaign and his victory in the referendum, and aided by the local dislocation that had accompanied Mr. Manley's remarkably successful program of industrialization, Sir Alexander won the 1962 election in Jamaica with 26 seats as against Mr. Manley's 19.
On hearing the result of the Jamaica referendum, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Eric Williams, pointed out that if there was a Federation of 10, and the figure 1 was removed, nothing was left. A few months later the Government of Trinidad and Tobago decided to seek independence on its own, and announced that it would welcome any island that chose to be associated with it in a unitary state. Only Grenada showed any interest in this proposal. The other seven islands which contain about 20 percent of the population and 15 percent of the area of the former Federation are in the process of setting up a new federation based on Barbados, and including Antigua, St. Kitts-Nevis and Anguilla, Montserrat, Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent.
Hand in hand with regret went concern about the future. The new states of Jamaica and Trinidad are grappling with problems similar to those which afflict the smaller islands, though not in so acute a form; and they find neither comfort nor encouragement in the happenings in those islands which gained their independence at an earlier date. To the north they see the Dominican Republic still sorely stricken after 20 years of Trujillo's oppression and the destruction of its democratic institutions. In Haiti, which led the way in Caribbean independence, the shabby dictator Duvalier rules with the support of a gang of thugs, his secret police. The effort of the Cuban people to free themselves from the brutal dictatorship of Batista has resulted in subjection to an even more ruthless tyranny. Jamaicans and Trinidadians, therefore, have seen at close quarters the swift destruction of civil liberties. The sudden arrival of refugees and exiles at their airports and in their harbors has underlined the fact that independence in itself offers no safeguard against exploitation or tyranny.
Perhaps as a result of this awareness the Jamaica constitution contains special provisions for protecting civil liberties and the parliamentary and ministerial system of government. The constitution is monarchical and is based largely on that of Britain. The Queen of England is the Queen of Jamaica and, as such, the nominal head of the Executive and an integral part of a Parliament that has legal supremacy within the framework of the constitution. Parliament consists of the Queen, a nominated Senate and a House of Representatives elected by adult suffrage. The constitution recognizes a Leader of the Opposition, but it goes further and is probably unique in giving him certain definite functions. Thus he has the right to be consulted when the Prime Minister is making specified appointments such as the Chief Justice, President of the Court of Appeal, and some members of commissions responsible for the police, the civil service and the subordinate courts; and he is entitled to express his views on these appointments to the Governor-General. Besides this, the Governor-General appoints one-third of the Senate on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, two-thirds on the advice of the Prime Minister. Responsible government and the two-party system are new in both Jamaica and Trinidad. They have developed within the last 20 years, yet are already deep-rooted. The debates on the constitution showed that Jamaicans and Trinidadians were insistent on taking every possible step to prevent their countries ever passing under a dictatorship. They were troubled both by events in neighboring lands and also by the fate which has overtaken opposition parties in other newly independent states.
The constitutions of Jamaica and of Trinidad recognize the fundamental rights in respect of life, liberty, security of the person, the enjoyment of property, the protection of law, freedom of conscience, the right of free speech and of free assembly. These provisions cannot be altered easily. Under the Jamaica constitution entrenched provisions, such as those which deal with personal security and with the protection of the law, can be changed only by a majority vote of two-thirds of the members of each house, and at least three months must elapse between the conclusion of the debate and the final vote. It is even more difficult to change the specially entrenched provisions that deal with the monarchical system of government, the composition and summoning of Parliament and the holding of free elections at specified times.
One of the most revealing features of the independence celebrations of Jamaica and Trinidad was the emphasis repeatedly put on the need for preserving harmonious relationships among the various racial groups in the community. Eric Williams gave his new nation the watchwords "Discipline, Production, Tolerance," while Jamaica chose as its motto "Out of Many, One People"-a noble aspiration but not a completely accurate description of the population of the island which is predominantly African. This insistence indicated that race and color remain explosive elements throughout Caribbean society, inspiring the Afro-Cubanism of Pales Matos, who pictures the powerful vitalizing role played in Caribbean culture by the Negro, who "lives physically and spiritually within us all"; moving Aimé Césaire and others to reject European culture and the "white world horribly weary from its immense effort"; leading Brouard of Haiti to express the power of Africa as both symbol and home: "Your lost sons send you greetings, Mother Africa. From the West Indies to Bermuda and Bermuda to the United States they sigh after you." In the 1920s the sighing after Africa became a political movement with the Jamaican Marcus Garvey, and in the 1940s it became a messianic movement with the Ras Tafari whose banner, floating above a hut on the Kingston foreshore, reads: "Headquarters of the Ras Tafari and Africa Recruitment Centre."
In Jamaica the areas of possible tension lie in relationships between black- white or black-brown, but friction is modified by a long tradition of understanding, tolerance, public service and common endeavor. Universal adult suffrage has made the masses the politically powerful class, and the common school and a generous provision of state scholarships have made education a unifying rather than a divisive force. Also, there is a high degree of homogeneity in the population; 75 out of every 100 people are of African descent, 20 are of mixed blood, and only 5 are from other groups such as the East Indians, Europeans and Chinese.
The position is different in Trinidad, which for three centuries after its discovery by Columbus in 1498 was almost completely neglected by Spain. Up to the period of the Napoleonic wars it was a struggling, backward island; but even then its small population was more diverse in its origin than that of Jamaica, for it included Spanish and French as well as British, African and people of color. The abolition of the slave trade in 1834 left the island critically short of labor. Frantic efforts were made to attract disbanded soldiers from Wellington's regiments, free Africans, Portuguese from the famine-stricken island of Madeira, and Chinese, but in the end the East Indian immigrant proved to be the answer to the desperate need of Trinidad-as to that of British Guiana. The first arrivals were in Guiana in 1838 but large-scale immigration did not get under way until after 1850. Over a period of 70 years from that date a total of 238,900 East Indians were introduced into Guiana, 143,900 into Trinidad. As a result East Indian immigration dominated the pattern of population growth in both countries. For this reason Trinidad differs from the other islands where, as a result of slavery, the Negro stock is dominant. In Guiana about half the population is East Indian, while in Trinidad the proportion is approximately one-third. The East Indian population has an extremely high fertility rate, about 45 per thousand as compared to around 30 per thousand for other groups. Since the death rate has fallen sharply because of advances in public health and medical care, the rate of natural increase is about twice that for other racial groups. In both Trinidad and Guiana the East Indians are rapidly becoming numerically equal to all other groups combined.
A recent study of an East Indian village in Trinidad's sugar belt reveals the strength and extent of cultural persistence even among second and third generation East Indians; but much more remarkable is the rapidity with which European, East Indian and Negro have settled down together to form a community. No other island in the Caribbean has a population so recently established and at the same time so heterogeneous in character; yet the people of Trinidad, regardless of cultural or ethnic background, have common goals of mobility, seek the same opportunities and share a common loyalty to their new nation.
What does threaten stability in Trinidad is the swift rate of population increase. This is true in every Caribbean country with the exception of Cuba and the Dominican Republic, where there is still land-room. In all other countries the population presses remorselessly against narrow limits of space and resources. At their present rate of increase the populations of Jamaica and of Barbados will double themselves in 25 and 33 years respectively; and already the population density in Barbados is of the order of 1,200 to the square mile, a figure that can be matched only in the suburban areas of most countries. Trinidad is better placed at present but her rate of increase is substantially higher than Jamaica's, and her 800,000 will become 1,600,000 in 25 years. With the exception of Puerto Rico, and to a lesser extent Trinidad, the economies of the islands are mainly agricultural. In general they are underdeveloped, with low capital intensity, relatively few skilled people, a relatively large number of unskilled laborers. The jibaro with his machete, the paysan scratching at his plot of land with a hoe, the sugar worker with his cutlass, are the characteristic figures on the Caribbean landscape. Shacks, cottages, estate houses hug the shoulders of the road that runs along the coast or into mountain valleys, and each year the number of people in them grows larger and the fertility of the land falls. In the islands agriculture can flourish only if some of the people now on the land are taken off it.
This is why political leaders in the Caribbean are preoccupied with economic development. Spurred by economic necessity, every territory (except Haiti) has achieved high rates of economic growth, but the population has grown faster. Puerto Rico led in both fields. Through its Fomento program Puerto Rico promoted and facilitated foreign investment and, with the advantage of being a part of the internal market of the United States, raised its national income above that of most Latin American countries. Also, New York and other cities of the industrial north provide a wide hatchway of escape and opportunity for its people. A Puerto Rican is born every seven minutes, but if need arises he can fly to the United States even before he learns to walk. Encouraged by Puerto Rico's success, Jamaica, under the leadership of Norman Manley, embarked on an ambitious program of development in the 1950s with the result that the annual rate of increase in per capita national income exceeded 10 percent. However, it was discouraging to find that very little employment was provided by industries developed through the Industrial Development Corporation. Between 1955 and 1960 not more than 5,000 jobs were created in factories, whereas the population increased by 30,000 a year. The pressure was reduced by the fact that during the same period Jamaica exported 70,000 people to the United Kingdom-an escape valve that has now been much tightened by recent British legislation.
West Indian leaders are not wasting too much time on beating white men about the head for their misdeeds and "colonialism." There is bitterness enough in their history but they find in their past better stuff from which to fashion their future: endurance, courage, the sustained capacity for common effort. But no island is a world, and already it is possible to discern new efforts at joint action within the group of islands that were members of the Federation of the West Indies. In the summer of 1962 a Common Services Conference was held in Port of Spain under the chairmanship of an Interim Commissioner appointed by the United Kingdom to perform the melancholy task of disposing of the assets of the dissolved Federation and of determining which of the common services should be continued. Very few of these common services were retained, but it was significant that all the governments, with the exception of British Guiana, agreed to continue supporting the University of the West Indies as a regional institution, and this decision received widespread public support. This conference was held at a period of disenchantment and frustration. Since then relations between Jamaica and Trinidad have been improved. The two countries have established diplomatic relations with each other, their diplomatic representatives overseas work closely together and steps are being taken to improve trade between the two islands.
Trinidad is more active than Jamaica in promoting contacts abroad because she has a market for her goods in many of the eastern islands as well as in Guiana and Surinam. Ships and schooners link the islands together, from distant Tortola and Anguilla to Trinidad; but the schooners keep to the north-south route and Jamaica remains a remote island, one indeed that is brought into the eastern group only by airplanes and air waves. The Governor-General of Jamaica, opening a new session of Parliament on April 8, referred to his Government's intention to foster good relations with the other islands, but the point was not developed. The fact is that as yet there is in Jamaica no more than a general interest in the rest of the Caribbean; but it would be surprising if some effort were not made toward closer relationships with British Honduras, which lies 600 miles or so to the west, is twice the size of Jamaica, has a population of under 100,000, and whose citrus and sugar industries have been developed with the help of Jamaican capital. Both countries could gain from carefully developed programs of technical assistance and trade.
Latin America has become of much more importance to Jamaica and Trinidad now that they are independent countries. One of their first acts was to seek membership in the Organization of American States. It is doubtful, however, whether the more restricted Caribbean Organization will win the support of either Trinidad or Jamaica. This body grew out of the Anglo- American Caribbean Commission which was formed in 1942 to encourage and strengthen "social and economic coöperation between the United States of America and its possessions and bases in the area . . . and the United Kingdom and the British Colonies in the same area." Later the Dutch and French joined the organization which in 1946 became the Caribbean Commission. Recently it became the Caribbean Organization, with its headquarters in Puerto Rico. It has done much to further common understanding and develop programs requiring joint action, but its effectiveness is likely to be limited by the fact that it was founded by the wrong people, in the sense that it originated with the metropolitan powers and for a time was dominated by them.
A deeper feeling for the region and its people will come only when the writers, educators and intellectuals of the Caribbean play the part of pioneers, even of prophets, creating symbols of unity, discovering and giving expression to spiritual and cultural identity. The task has been outlined by Dr. Eric Williams:
Let us suppose that with the stroke of a wand we could blot out the four and a half centuries of international rivalry for Caribbean Hegemony, and start with a clean slate. Let us suppose, finally, that the Caribbean were suddenly transformed into an area of fraternity. . . . Let us imagine, I say, all these miracles, and Caribbean coöperation would probably be no nearer realisation that it is today. For the two fundamental obstacles to its achievement would remain: the absence of a common body of knowledge, and the language barrier. . . . The development and organisation of this common body of knowledge of the Caribbean, based on the deliberate cultivation of the multilingual facility, is the great political desideratum and intellectual truth of the age and of the area.
These are challenging words. They open up a splendid opportunity for collaboration between the vigorous University of Puerto Rico and the rapidly expanding University of the West Indies. These two institutions have it in their power to develop joint programs of teaching and research. A start has been made in one or two branches of medical research but these small and tentative beginnings are as nothing in comparison with what might be undertaken through boldly conceived programs in Caribbean studies, the creative arts, and in some of the technological fields. At no time in Caribbean history has a greater opportunity been offered for these universities to become the burning glass of the region, focusing to intensity the aspirations and creative gifts of the scattered Caribbean people.
The seed bed is already there, in the haunting folk songs of Jamaica, the glittering calypsos and steel-band music of Trinidad, the Big Drum dance, the Calenda, the folk tales found in every island, the sparkling creole proverbs. These are common to the Caribbean, an immediate language understood by all, the natural expression of common experiences that underlie dissimilarities of Caribbean life. There is proof of this basic unity also at the level of self-conscious and deliberate art. In his illuminating study of "Race and Colour in Caribbean Literature," George R. Coulthard has pointed out that Caribbean culture as a whole has had a development very similar to that of continental Latin America: "We find for example that Haiti, which achieved independence before the Spanish-American colonies and was born into a different European cultural tradition, has an almost exactly parallel line of development." As for the West Indies, whose independence comes more than a century after that of Latin America, "their cultural process seems more and more to be assuming features typical of Latin America culture-localism. . . "
The larger unity is to come. Its development will be influenced by the United States. One of the most striking features of Caribbean history in this century has been the growth of North American influence in the territories associated with European powers. These originated in the great movement of the Old World to dominate the New World and were left behind as isolated remnants when that movement receded. Power has shifted from those European nations, which embarked on the enterprise of the Indies, to the United States, which is now concerned with the enterprise of Europe.
In recent years the British Government has been most generous in its assistance to higher education, providing buildings and equipment for the University of the West Indies to the amount of some £7,000,000, and contributing millions of pounds through its Colonial Development and Welfare Fund for a wide range of programs in agriculture, education, public health and social services. United Kingdom universities, notably the University of London, have united to assist the University of the West Indies. Canada and the United States have provided aid in many ways. After long and sometimes difficult negotiations the Government of the United States has agreed with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to contribute $31,000,000 for certain development projects, over a period of four or five years, in return for the use of the naval base at Chaguaramas. The United Nations Special Fund and philanthropic foundations have assisted social and economic development with generous grants.
The first organized effort at social and economic development in the West Indies was made after poverty and discontent exploded in a series of riots in St. Kitts, Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica in 1937-38. The United Kingdom established a Colonial Development and Welfare Fund, and appointed a comptroller and a group of advisers to assist the West Indian governments in establishing priorities and formulating long-term programs in agriculture, education, health, social work and labor education. The flow of ready money put new vigor into the economy, the careful study of local problems was a welcome change from earlier haphazard attempts to cure all troubles by the building of a road, and consultation on a regional basis led each community to discover that there were other islands in the Caribbean.
Local participation in planning and in making decisions became more essential after 1944, the point of no return in West Indian development. In that year Jamaica was given a new constitution which provided for adult suffrage and a fair measure of responsible government. The process was carried to its conclusion in 1962 when Jamaica and Trinidad became independent. As sovereign states they are no longer eligible for Colonial Development grants and the United Kingdom has emphasized in a rather heavy- handed way that economic independence is an essential concomitant of political independence. The thesis is open to question if the perspectives of history are substituted for the nearsighted view of present necessities.
The fact is that small independent nations such as Trinidad or Jamaica need help for a period of time in order that their economies may become self- sustaining. As independent countries they are seeking aid for economic and social development, and they turn in particular to the United States. They have based their claim not on poverty but on their record in development. One aspect of that record illustrates the complexity of international assistance. On the one hand the United States and Canada generally require that every possible use be made of their own trained people and of their own manufactured goods in every program for which they provide money. This is understandable; but it is also easy to understand why local architects, contractors or other professional men resent this condition.
In these circumstances it is not enough to dismiss the problem by saying that he who pays the piper calls the tune. Development begins in the mind, with a decision. This is the first essential step; the country which needs development must first seek it. That it why technical aid should not be exported; it should always be imported-brought in as a result of a decision already taken within the community. Trinidad and Jamaica have made their decision in favor of development. They have public servants of ability and honesty who can see that public funds are spent honestly for the public benefit. They seek a partnership in the development of their resources by which they will keep their independence while obtaining the aid they need.
Having achieved unity and independence, having demonstrated in the field of human relationships how differences of race and color can be used creatively, having mobilized their resources under their own leadership, three million people in what used to be called the British Caribbean have embarked upon their own Enterprise of the Indies, with no doubt in their minds about their own capacity, but with some questioning as to whether their efforts will win the support of nations whose help is essential to their development.