Rubbish, Mr Walters!

Holness, Golding, Seaga slam author for attack on Bustamante, promotion of one-party state

Sunday, March 02, 2014

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THREE former prime ministers yesterday dismissed author Ewart Walters’ claim that Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) founder Sir Alexander Bustamante divided the national unity movement in the late 1930s by splitting from the People’s National Party (PNP).

Edward Seaga, Bruce Golding and Andrew Holness, in response to yesterday’s Sunday Observer lead story, also rubbished Walters’ promotion of a one-party state in his new book We Come From Jamaica - The National Movement 1937-1962, 2014.

In his book, Walters argues that many Jamaicans had recognised that the two-party system divided the country and fractured the national unity that attended the discussions and activities that began in the late 1930s.

The Westminster system of government, derived from the British, created an artificial fractiousness that left the losing party to “oppose, oppose, oppose” regardless, Walters says.

Walters, a Jamaican journalist who now lives in Canada, also states in his book that “Jamaica could have been much farther ahead now, had William Alexander Bustamante remained as a supporter of the national movement in which Norman Manley’s People’s National Party played a major role, and not the adversary he became”.

He also said that Bustamante, one of Jamaica’s seven national heroes, “unabashedly identified himself with the use of force… violent skirmishes and was a practitioner of the disruptive uses of violence to turn back political challenge”.

But yesterday, Holness, the current JLP leader, said that his party firmly believes that democracy trumps a one-party state any time. “Having not too long now celebrated 50 years of Independence, one of the proudest boasts of Jamaicans has been that of our democratic tradition and peaceful transitions of power.

A true democracy cannot be based on a oneparty system, which can only succeed where differing views are suppressed by an oppressive state machinery,” Holness said.

“In a world which has largely demolished socialist and one-party doctrines, the thought that such a society would be, or would have been, a better model for Jamaica and Jamaicans, seems so far-fetched and out of date with our modern appreciation of what democracy means to us, one can only wonder at the intentions of the author to publish such statements in this day and age,” Holness added.

He said that, while it is undeniable that politically motivated violence has been a part of Jamaica’s history, “the attempt to paint the JLP as a party associated with violence arrives curiously timed” with the naming of commissioners of the imminent Commission of Enquiry into the May 2010 security forces operation in West Kingston.

Seventy-six persons, including a policeman and a solder, were killed in that effort by the security forces to arrest then Tivoli Gardens strongman Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, who was wanted by the US Government.

Holness said that the historical truth is that Bustamante was a steadfast workers’ rights advocate and that he offered his leadership when workers called a strike on the Kingston waterfront in May 1938.

“The Moyne Commission subsequently confirmed what Bustamante had been saying for years that the nutritional, educational, health, and economic systems in Jamaica were very poor and needed redress,” Holness said.

“The PNP, to this very day, continues to advocate positions which are not primarily focused on the progress and success of Jamaica, which, in their philosophy, competes with the interests of other nations through their political linkages across the Caribbean. Continuing the legacy of Bustamante, the JLP has always, and continues to put Jamaica first.

Bustamante was, and is a true father of our politically independent nation,” Holness added. Golding, who immediately preceded Holness as JLP leader and prime minister, described Walters’ view of Jamaica’s political history as warped.

“Bustamante’s participation with Norman Manley in the early years of the PNP was a natural outcome of the anti-colonial momentum that intensified with (a) the labour unrest of 1938 to which Bustamante gave leadership; and (b) the consolidation of the nationalist movement with the formation of the PNP, which was itself facilitated by the labour unrest,” Golding said.

“Various accounts have been given as to what specifically triggered Bustamante’s withdrawal from the PNP. What is indisputable is that, while there was common purpose in opposing colonialism, Bustamante never subscribed to the socialist philosophy that was in ascendancy in the PNP,” Golding added.

He said that Walters’ most egregious distortion of history and assault on Bustamante’s legacy, however, is his endorsement of the assertion that Bustamante ‘unabashedly identified himself with the use of force… and was a practitioner of the disruptive use of violence to turn back political challenge’.

“I dare Mr Walters to cite a single incident in recorded history or utterance by Bustamante that can provide one iota of evidence or justification for this outrageous and ludicrous claim,” Golding said.

Seaga, who held the reins of the party before Golding, said that the impression being given by Walters that the JLP initiated a split in the socialist political system which prevailed under Norman Manley was “an old story started by the early starry-eyed PNP leadership who foresaw Jamaica’s development as a one-party state with Manley as the political leader and Bustamante as the head of the trade union movement”.

According to Seaga, the PNP leadership gave as a feeble excuse Bustamante’s separation from the PNP “to explain the whopping electoral defeat dealt to the PNP by the JLP in 1944 when the PNP won only four seats”.

The dream of the PNP hardliners, he said, was that it would continuously hold State power as the only party. “Can anyone really believe that Jamaicans would have been satisfied to be a one-party state with no critical assessment of the politics of the time and all that flowed from that ideology?” Seaga asked.

He said that Bustamante recognised that he was being used as a tool to bring in votes, while Manley was to supply ideology and leadership.

“Bustamante’s ideological belief from the beginning was to marry capital and labour, knowing full well that neither element of the duality could progress without the other.

That ideology has worked in the pattern of the political systems of France, Germany, India, Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand among countless other states where the oneparty concept never succeeded,” Seaga added.

“Bustamante’s delicate balance of the roles of labour and capital in the early days set the base which is followed today by the PNP after the demise of its socialist adventure of the seventies. Should the question be whether the PNP of today would wish Jamaica to be a one-party state?” he said.

Seaga said that the JLP has never had to restructure its belief systems, as it continues to believe in the interplay of capital and labour within a political society of contending political views.

“Norman Manley eventually adopted this same posture and succeeded in winning the elections of 1955 and 1959. When Michael Manley launched his socialist adventures, he succeeded in the first round and was wiped out in the second round as the people overwhelmingly expressed a desire to return to the JLP direction as originally set out by Bustamante,” Seaga said.

Added Seaga: “This pattern was true of the English-speaking Caribbean basin, where socialism and its oneparty state model was demolished in the 1980s, leaving only Cuba to tiptoe slowly towards changing its ideology to the widely accepted model pioneered in Jamaica by Bustamante and the Jamaica Labour Party.

“Does anyone in the PNP wish to change that model? If so, they should speak up now and let the people of Jamaica know.”

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