Setting the socialist record straight
People's National Party (PNP) president and Opposition Leader Mark Golding addressing the public session of the party's 85th annual conference inside the National Arena in St Andrew. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Upset is an understatement to describe the tone and content of an e-mail which I received last week. My reader was livid. The gist of her fury was that, two Sundays ago, I had said in this space that Mark Golding was a socialist and the People's National Party (PNP) was socialist.

She went on at length to explain that the PNP today was not the same as Michael Manley's PNP of the 1970s. To support that assertion she pointed out that Golding had said publicly that he was committed to fiscal discipline. She contended that there was little difference in reality between the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Opposition. A PNP Administration, given the current global conditions, would have no choice but to continue along the path of the present Administration, she noted.

She ended her missive by submitting that the Portia Simpson Miller Administration demonstrated that the PNP was committed to fiscal discipline. She said past PNP Administrations had been "plotted against".

I replied to her with a synopsis of the facts below. I have presented an expansion here, primarily because I suspect there are others like her.

MANLEY...publicly rejected democratic socialism (Photo: J. ScottApplewhite)

Mark Golding and socialism

I did not brand Mark Golding a socialist. He did.

A feature in this newspaper on June 6, 2021, entitled 'Golding's beard is here to stay', noted among other things: "I never wore locks, but I was always a socialist, liberation person, always focused on freeing the people," Golding stated.

As for the PNP being a socialist organisation, several high-ranking members of that party have said on the hustings in recent weeks that they are socialists and they will never change. I believe them.

The PNP is also a member of Socialist International and some affiliated bodies. As I noted two Sundays ago, parties like the PNP have predominately ditched the nomenclature socialist and have adopted the more benign term progressives. Why? They will say it is because they have evolved. Nonsense! The real explanation is that the term socialist is damaged goods all around the globe. There is no successful socialist Government anywhere in the world. And I am confident there will never be any.

And, for those who are quick to draw for the Scandinavian countries, don't. Those countries are not socialist. I, long ago, dispelled that myth in this space. As a matter of fact, during the period when some of the Scandinavian nations experimented with socialism there was near social and economic ruin.

Socialism, no matter how socialists try to wrap themselves in all sorts of convoluted disguise to hide their true antecedents, is the control of the production, distribution, and exchange of goods and services by the State. Numerous scholarly works from globally renowned authors have shown that socialism is antithetical to human nature.

I cite four:

F A Hayek, Nobel laureate in economics and author of the seminal work The Road to Serfdom, pointed out that the very genesis of what is called socialist theory was birthed by anti-freedom architects. He eloquently noted: "It is rarely remembered now that socialism, in its beginnings, was frankly authoritarian. It began quite openly as a reaction against the liberalism of the French Revolution. The French writers who laid its foundation had no doubt that their ideas could be put into practice only by a strong dictatorial Government. The first of modern planners, Saint-Simon, predicted that those who did not obey his proposed planning boards would be 'treated as cattle'."

John Stuart Mill, English philosopher and political economist, said: "Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces, which make it a living thing."

Sir Winston Churchill, widely regarded as the United Kingdom's greatest prime minister, was equally emphatic: "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy; its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery."

American economist, social theorist, and senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Thomas Sowell encapsulated the ruinous results of socialism this way: "Socialism, in general, has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it."

It is for readers like the one mentioned to inform Golding that, three decades ago, then Prime Minister Michael Manley at a meeting of the PNP's National Executive Council (NEC) that was held at The University of the West Indies, Mona, publicly rejected democratic socialism. Manley also repudiated socialism in Washington, DC, in 1989.

The Real McCoy vs Imitation

Noted British Conservative Member of Parliament, author, and historian Allan Clark famously said: "As invariably happens when a party feels itself to be the subject of total rejection by the electorate, the solution is seen to lie in assuming as close a remembrance to the opponent."

Research by noted scholars in the field of politics support Clark's aphorism.

The PNP was soundly rejected in the September 3, 2020 General Election. Recall the Andrew Holness-led JLP won 49 seats and the Dr Peter Phillips-led PNP managed to hold on to 14 seats. The pommelling which the PNP got in our 18th parliamentary election caused many at 89 Old Hold Road to publicly admit that the electorate was not buying what they were selling.

As we get closer to the holding of our 17th local government election, the PNP has started to assume closer resemblance to the JLP, I believe. We should not be fooled by the PNP's pretences. I do not believe the PNP, for example, when it says it is committed to fiscal discipline. The PNP's recommendation that we slow down the servicing of the national debt flies in the face of that commitment. The $40-billion spending spree enunciated by the Opposition leader recently makes a mockery of that commitment.

And a recent recommendation on the political stump by Golding that the Holness Administration needed to "remove the hedge fund tax and cap the Special Consumption Tax (SCT) on fuel and use the surplus to protect the consumer" also runs counter to fiscal discipline, as I see it. How would the gaping hole in the budget be capped? The PNP has yet to tell us.

Based on the PNP's dozens of uncosted promises in recent months, I do not see how they can be accepted as genuine converts of fiscal discipline.

Former Prime Minister Edward Seaga once said that the worst thing you can do with socialists is to give them capitalist-type polices and programmers to oversee and implement. I believe one of the major reasons for the huge failures of PNP administrations in the 70s, and the 90s, was that we were ruled by individuals who just did not understand even the very basics of conscientious free enterprise.

In the words of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: "We were ruled by men who lived by illusions; the illusion that you can spend money you had not earned without eventually going bankrupt or falling in the hands of your creditors. The illusion that real jobs can be conjured into existence by Government decree, like rabbits out of a hat. The illusion that there is some other way of creating wealth, than by hard work and satisfying your customers. The illusion that you can have freedom and enterprise without believing in enterprise."

During the last 8 years Jamaica has witnessed the creation of record numbers of small and medium-sized businesses. This is the lifeblood of an economy.

Bill Clinton, one of the most successful presidents of the United States of America, in regard to the management and growth in that economy, said in one of his most memorable speeches: "The considerable economic success of my time in office was primarily the result of thousands of ordinary Americans starting businesses in which they employed two, three, and up to 10 people at time."

As I see it, the PNP can try to imitate the JLP all it wants, I am not convinced they can replicate and/or better the many achievements of especially the last 8 years.

Plaudits and recognition

The impressive economic gains, particularly since 2016, are not happy accidents.

They are due to hard work and sacrifices by the Jamaican people, along with prudent management by an Administration that keenly understands the importance of choice, competition, liberty, enterprise, embodied in strong conscientious conservative values.

I said here a long time ago that Dr Peter Phillips, former minister of finance and de factor prime minister between 2012 and 2016, deserves credit for not derailing the economic recovery programme which was started by the Bruce Golding Administration.

Recall that, starting in 2010, the Bruce Golding-led Administration, with Audley Shaw as the finance minister, began decisive actions, including two domestic debt exchanges, to put Jamaica's debt trajectory on a more sustainable path. Some Jamaicans, doubtless, remember that it was the beginning of a very difficult journey back from the brink of a huge economic precipice.

How did we get there? Some, for reasons which should be obvious to the discerning, concoct all kinds of falsehoods to explain how Jamaica plummeted from one of the globe's fastest-growing economies in the 1960s to one of the slowest by 1973. However, no amount of ping pong intellectualism and what a former aide to US President Donald J Trump called "alternative facts" can alter the reality that it was the PNP's catastrophic mismanagement during the 70s, 90s, and the early part of the 2000s which brought this country to the brink of bankruptcy.

As a consequence Jamaica was the butt of jokes in the region. On the international stage, notwithstanding our great achievements particularly in sport and culture, we were branded as an economic basket case. I recall, for example, that Dr Phillips revealed in an interview that he had to put up with a lot of disrespect from individuals and entities in the international negotiating space, who reasoned that Jamaica's economy was unsalvageable.

Some of my younger readers, doubtless, will declare, how dare they treat Jamaica with such disdain? Well, the reality is we had placed ourselves in a position for them to "tek step wid wi" [to be humiliated].

On the point of humiliation, it would be remiss of me not to mention that Dr Phillips was carefully guided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Doubtless, the constant supervision would have been uncomfortable.

Anyway, I have said here before that, notwithstanding the strict directives of the IMF which guided Phillips, he deserves plaudits because he and the then Administration could have messed things up and they did not. I stand by that.

The mentioned reader submits that past PNP Administrations (plural) had been "plotted against". There is credible evidence that there was interference from foreign powers in the political affairs of Jamaica in the 1970s. Jamaica was not unique in this respect. This was the height of the Cold War. I don't believe this factor alone is sufficient to exempt Michael Manley from blame for the massive deterioration which came about while he was prime minister.

The hundreds of millions of dollars which were spent on 'crash programmes', the foolish nationalisation of industries which Government had no business in, the alienation of major trading partners, the many imprudent budgetary decisions which were done on nothing more than whims and fancies, and the adoption of policies which were rooted in redistribution minus prior production, were not the doings of any foreign powers. They were the actions of Manley and his team.

The devastation caused by the PNP from 1989-2007 cannot be credibly assigned to meddling by foreign powers. For most of this period the world economy was buoyant. The 90s, for example, was a period of boom. The economies in the Caribbean grew on average three per cent to five per cent. There was no oil crisis comparable to the 70s and the Cold War was on its very last legs.

What then accounts for the near economic ruin of those 18½ years?

Primarily rank political incompetence, unrivalled corruption, spiralling social degradation, and total unfamiliarity with free enterprise, I believe.

Garfield Higgins is an educator, journalist, and a senior advisor to the minister of education and youth. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or

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