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Critical Interventions in Caribbean Politics and Theory

Critical Interventions in Caribbean Politics and Theory

Brian Meeks
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Critical Interventions in Caribbean Politics and Theory
    Book Description:

    These essays by Brian Meeks, a noted public intellectual in the Caribbean, reflect on Caribbean politics, particularly radical politics and ideologies in the postcolonial era. But his essays also explain the peculiarities of the contemporary neo-liberal period while searching for pathways beyond the current plight.

    In the first chapters, titled "Theoretical Forays," Meeks makes a conscious attempt to engage with contemporary Caribbean political thought at a moment of flux and search for a relevant theoretical language and style to both explicate the Caribbean's recent past and confront the difficult conditions of the early twenty-first century. The next part, "Caribbean Questions," both retrospective and biographical, retraces the author's own engagement with the University of the West Indies (UWI), the short-lived but influential Caribbean Black Power movement, the work of seminal Trinidadian thinker and activist Lloyd Best, Cuba's relationship with Jamaica, and the crisis and collapse of the Grenadian Revolution.

    As evident in its title, "Jamaican Journeys," the concluding section excerpts and extracts from a longer, more sustained engagement with Jamaican politics and society. Much of Meeks' argument builds around the notion that Jamaica faces a crucial moment, as the author seeks to chart and explain its convoluted political path and dismal economic performance over the past three decades. Meeks remains surprisingly optimistic as he suggests that despite the emptying of sovereignty in the increasingly globalized world, windows to enhanced human development might open through policies of greater democracy and popular inclusion.

    eISBN: 978-1-62674-067-9
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xi)
    (pp. xii-xii)
    Brian Meeks
  5. Part One: Theoretical Forays

    • 1. The Frontline: Valentino, Pablo Moses, and Caribbean Organic Philosophy in the Seventies (2003)
      (pp. 3-21)

      Three anecdotal events from the early eighties serve as an introduction to the purposes of this chapter. The first relates to a close colleague and friend, the late Barrington Chevannes, former dean¹ of the faculty of social sciences at the University of the West Indies, Mona, then a member of the central committee of the Workers Party of Jamaica (WPJ). Barry had delivered a paper on revolutionary music in Jamaica at the Intellectual Workers Conference, held with much fanfare in revolutionary Grenada in 1982. To the great consternation and dissatisfaction of the audience, he spoke about the contribution of the...

    • 2. Reasoning with Caliban: A Critical Reading of Paget Henry’s Caliban’s Reason: Introducing Afro-Caribbean Philosophy (2002)
      (pp. 22-32)

      Paget Henry has written an important book, breathtaking in its ambition, sweeping in its vision, and, certainly to someone trained in the narrow secularity of the social sciences, startling in its conclusions. Henry’s purpose is nothing less than to explore and map a field that has not been previously charted: Afro-Caribbean philosophy.

      His central thesis is to confirm that there does exist an Afro-Caribbean philosophy, but that it has been a minor tradition, operating in the interstices of the more dominant forms of Caribbean intellectual production. He suggests that it is divided into two sub-traditions, that of the historicists (Eric...

    • 3. Arguments within What’s Left of the Left: James, Watson, and the Question of Method (2001)
      (pp. 33-46)

      Genuine arguments in Caribbean social science scholarship are quite rare.¹ Arguments within the left are even less frequent, as today the question might realistically be asked, “What’s left of the left?”² This is an eight-year-old argument, consisting of three parts. There is an initial statement, written by me in 1994. This was followed by a response, first delivered by my fellow Caribbean social scientist Hilbourne Watson in 1997. And there is now this article, my first defense, delivered at the auspicious C. L. R. James One Hundredth Anniversary Symposium in Trinidad in 2001 and elaborated in greater detail here.


    • 4. Michael Manley: Crossing the Contours of Charisma (2001)
      (pp. 47-64)

      Monday, March 17, 1997. It is the day after the funeral of Michael Manley. This is how theDaily Gleanerdescribed the previous day’s events in the western city of Montego Bay:

      They rented cars, chartered buses and car-pooled. Montego Bay was virtually empty yesterday as thousands of admirers made their way to Kingston to pay their last respects to the man tailor Ray Jarrett called “a great man who has left the world poorer at his departure, yet richer by his journey through.” . . . Carol Spencer in Falmouth reported that the town was “very quiet,” as most...

  6. Part Two: Caribbean Questions

    • 5. Saving the Soul of the University (1998)
      (pp. 67-74)

      My conscious memory of the University of the West Indies (UWI) qua university dates back to the first week in fifth form at Jamaica College. Jimmy Carnegie, whose skill at throwing chalk at miscreants was even more finely tuned than his not insignificant grasp of West Indian history, had thrown his chalk (accurately) and, in response to an early “radical” comment from me, which itself has been forgotten in the mists of time, responded: “If you want to be radical at least do what Trevor Munroe¹ did.”

      At the time, I did not know who Trevor Munroe was or what...

    • 6. Black Power Forty Years On (2014)
      (pp. 75-85)

      Looking back across these forty-something years, what is most striking about the Caribbean Black Power movement is the steepness of the curve of its rise and fall and yet the significant impact that it has had on subsequent social and political events in the region. In the narrow definition, Caribbean Black Power flourished for a mere six years. Inspired in name by Stokely Carmichael’s 1966 rallying cry in Mississippi² and really taking flight with the demonstration, riot, and events surrounding Walter Rodney’s expulsion from Jamaica in 1968, Black Power rose to a crescendo in the 1970 “revolution” in Trinidad and...

    • 7. Lloyd Best, “The People,” and the Road Not Taken in 1970 (2003)
      (pp. 86-97)

      The epigraph to this chapter is from Lloyd Best’s “Whither New World?” I use it because, in compact fashion, it encapsulates everything that he has stood for: a deep concern for his country, always defined in a regional, rather than narrowly insular sense; an intellectually rigorous and consistent approach to scholarship; and an abiding respect for the innate creativity of the Caribbean people. This last feature in particular, segues into the purposes of this essay, which is an attempt to excavate the Bestian approach to that most difficult problematic: the appropriate relationship between leaders and followers, particularly in those rare...

    • 8. Cuba from Due South (2012)
      (pp. 98-106)

      I start this narrative dangerously and furtively, with my own poem, written in 1975 at a moment when the Michael Manley government was approaching the pinnacle of its engagement with Cuba. It was published four years later, as part of a collection in 1979, the year before the defeat of Manley’s People’s National Party (PNP) in the bloody general election of 1980. I say dangerously and furtively because it is always risky business to critique your own work, even if more than three decades separate you from the original composition. Yet, in searching desperately for material to illustrate this chapter,...

    • 9. Grenada, Once Again: Revisiting the 1983 Crisis and Collapse of the Grenada Revolution (2012)
      (pp. 107-128)

      The twenty-fifth anniversary in October 2008 of the tragic killing of Maurice Bishop and his associates and the subsequent invasion of Grenada, followed closely by the release on September 5, 2009, of Bernard Coard and the six remaining prisoners convicted of his murder, has been cause for a flurry of new conferences, papers, letters, and communiqués on the Grenada revolution and its tragic demise. Among the most outstanding were the conference and remembrance activities on the anniversary at the University of Toronto;¹ the April 2009 conference on the legacies of radical politics in the Caribbean at the University of Pittsburgh;...

  7. Part Three: Jamaican Journeys

    • 10. Reinventing the Jamaican Political System (2001)
      (pp. 131-143)

      The new year began with a bang. On one particular Sunday in late January, these were among the leading stories in theGleaner. The first, under the nonchalant headline “Higglers selling prescription drugs on the streets: Open-air pharmacy on the sidewalks,” went on to note: “The illegal trade has left the health sector baffled about how so many different kinds of prescription drugs could have found their way on the street side, and concerned about the health risk involved in the abuse of these drugs.”¹

      The second, under the photograph of a single telephone pole with a spider’s web of...

    • 11. Imagining the Future: Rethinking the Political in Jamaica (2006)
      (pp. 144-159)

      In the closing pages ofSeason of Adventure, his powerful novel of the postcolonial Caribbean, George Lamming makes a stunning about turn. Suddenly and without warning, the author appears to abandon the storyline and speaks directly to the reader. Powell, the bête noire of the narrative, murders Vice President Raymond. In a long soliloquy, the author admits that Powell is his half-brother. Until the age of ten, they lived together, but then their lives diverged. The author enters a life of scholarship, education, and privilege, while Powell remains in the world of the tonelle, of the drum, of the traditional...

    • 12. Caribbean Radical Traditions and the Turn in the Jamaican Moment (2006)
      (pp. 160-168)

      On Saturday February 25, 2006, Portia Simpson-Miller, Minister of Local Government, was elected by a narrow margin of some 237 votes to the post of president of the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) of Jamaica. In front of a massive crowd of cheering supporters outside the PNP headquarters, dominated by the yellow t-shirts of her campaign team, Portia first read from the prophet Isaiah, then called for party unity and issued a message of hope: “I come to you with a promise of hope as we continue the transformation of the PNP and a promise of hope that all of...

    • 13. The Dudus Events in Jamaica and the Future of Caribbean Politics (2011)
      (pp. 169-182)

      I am particularly happy to be able to be speaking at an event in honor of Pat Emmanuel. He was my first lecturer in politics at UWI St. Augustine, a quiet, somewhat reserved, but obviously very bright person. He was among a remarkable group of people including Lloyd Best, Roy Thomas, and Eric St. Cyr in economics; Susan Craig in sociology. Euric Bobb, Richard Jacobs, and Emmanuel himself in politics; and Bill Riviere and James Millette in history.

      My generation marked its passage through university by the number of demonstrations and strikes that we were involved in. One of the...

    • 14. Jamaica on the Cusp of Fifty: Whither Nationalism and Sovereignty? (2013)
      (pp. 183-196)

      On the evening of December 29, 2011, Portia Simpson-Miller led her People’s National Party (PNP) to a decisive 42–21-seat victory over the incumbent Jamaica Labour Party (JLP),² setting a new precedent for Jamaica, as the JLP, only recently having anointed Andrew Holness to replace Bruce Golding as its leader and prime minister, turned out to be the first government in the country’s modern political history to serve only one term in office. The election results took many by surprise. Most, including the majority of pollsters and political commentators, 3 holding conservatively to the traditional rhythms of Jamaican politics, felt...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 197-234)
    (pp. 235-249)
    (pp. 250-250)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 251-254)