Richard Hart — Repairer of the breach
During his lifetime, Richard Hart committed his energies to the cause of the working class with much solicitude. It was a matter of concernment to him to document the events unfolding during his active years, much of which was to become the repository on those early years of the People's National Party and the process of decolonisation in which the working class played a seminal role.
When I first met him, back in the 1990s, I was struck by his tenacious desire for details. For in one of our discussions the matter as to the date of the first publication of the Jamaica Labour Weekly preoccupied his mind. While I was content with the fact that it was some time in the month of May 1938, he was intent on remembering the exact date, and got up to research in his archives for the first publication, which he produced for my scrutiny.
I also remembered his campaign efforts in having the redaction of contents in the colonial office files for a specified period lifted so that public access to the information and materials of the pre-Independence period could be made available.
We spoke at length about the events unfolding during the May 1938 period, his involvement in the labour struggles, the formation of a Labour Committee by Norman Manley to solidify the work of the trade union movement, and the sub-committee formed out of it, which was charged with drafting a constitution to incorporate several unions in one major union, which later morphed into the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union.
His lifelong campaign clearly showed the characteristics of dialectical thinking in locating capitalism as a system of contradictions and opposites and his understanding of the interdependence, inter-penetration and unity of contending forces. Therefore, the end of colonialism was never the end of the struggle for him; he was not merely content with being one of the midwives of the transformation to political independence, but continued his struggle against what he deemed an ossified capitalist system.
His toiling in the vineyard on behalf of the working class in the 1930s and beyond may not be fully appreciated today -- that, of course, is an indictment on our sense of history. But he now joins so many others as 'repairers of the breach' in their long and arduous struggle on behalf of the working class of this country.
Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Education Institute
Consortium for Social Development and Research