Twenty-one years ago, when deciding on a topic for my PhD research, I felt it important to focus on how the post-colonial independence project was facing exhaustion by globalisation ad neo-liberalism. Basing my research on St. Lucia, I attempted to show how, by the late 1980s, the social-democratic options pursued by Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad were unavailable to St. Lucia, as the new global environment was presenting ideological, economic and political limits to sovereignty and independence.
Since my early exploration of this perspective, the intervening years have deepened, rather than diminished the concerns which I sought to highlight in my study. Quite fortuitously, the years which I have spent domiciled in Barbados, have convinced me that there is perhaps no other Caribbean country in which the tensions associated with the collapse of the post-colonial order and the crisis of independence are unfolding more starkly.
Indeed, much of my writing on the politics of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP), have been a response to how much of its praxis has conformed to this process of the unmaking of the independence project.
Particularly interesting, is the fact that the current DLP is the offspring of the father of independence, Errol Barrow, under whom the most comprehensive anti-colonial national development ethos had been established, and the current administration is the most forthright in the dismantling of his social-democratic national development project.
The latest example of the reversal of the independence project can be seen in the announcement of a sale of the Barbados Hilton at a steal, and with hushed haste, given the desperation over the concerns of the level of reserves in the context of the failure of the proposed sale of the national oil company to another private concern.
We are indeed in a moment of desperation when what was unthinkable twenty years ago as a sell-out to foreign domination, is now being touted as the height of economic wisdom. We are in the last days, not only as is presumed of the life of the current administration, but of the first cycle of post-colonial development which can be said to have begun in the 1950s.
What is troubling, is that our political leaders treat this kind of analysis as a “political partisan attack”. Instead of becoming genuine nationalists and rallying the public for a second independence revolution, they hide behind a dying partisan structure as a last desperate act of staying in power at all costs.
Nowhere have we heard a new vision for a new future. Instead, what passes as political discourse is mechanistic technical discussion about the IMF, balance of payments, and privatisation. In the meantime, the last vestiges of independent development and national self-determination are being slowly eroded. Their ideology is simply, “let us survive till the next election”. After that, the deluge.
By Dr. Tennyson S. D. Joseph