New book blames National Hero for political violence, dividing the national unity movement

WHILE the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was celebrating its revered founder Sir Alexander Bustamante last week, a Canadian-based Jamaican journalist was launching a scathing attack on the National Hero for Jamaica's lack of progress.

Against the backdrop of the 130th anniversary of Sir Alexander's birth, commemorated by the Opposition party on February 24, Ewart 'Fats' Walters said Jamaica would have been much farther ahead if Bustamante had not split from the People's National Party (PNP) and damaged the national movement.

“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,” Walters wrote in the prologue to his latest book, We Come From Jamaica - The National Movement 1937-1962, 2014.

Walters said 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, he argued.

“The exciting spirit of creativity, volunteerism and togetherness that was fomented by the movement towards nationhood was blunted the moment in 1943 that Bustamante was persuaded by the British to keep Manley in check by forming his Jamaica Labour Party,” Walters said.

Walters, who is remembered for the time when he was deputy editor of the now defunct Jamaica Daily News, also quoted another author, Obika Gray, who wrote Demeaned but Empowered, blaming Bustamante for the introduction of political violence in Jamaica.

“Bustamante 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,” Gray was quoted by Walters as saying.

Walters suggested that a call by civil society for a government of national unity in 2010 “was really an attempt to shed partisan politics and reunite the people — even if it would mean playing down the political parties — and complete the task of nation building”. Walters was a top Jamaican journalist who worked for Public Opinion founded in 1937, The Gleaner, and the Jamaica Daily News.

He spent six years in the Jamaican diplomatic service in Ottawa and New York before migrating to Canada where he founded Spectrum community newspaper. In 2010, he was invested with the Order of Distinction, Commander Class (CD) for his voluntary work in defending and promoting minorities in Canada.

He plans to launch We Come From Jamaica - The National Movement 1937- 1962, 2014, his third book, in Ottawa, Toronto and in Jamaica between March and May this year. In the book now on the press, Walters described the national movement as a creative phenomenon located between 1937 and 1962, the year Jamaica secured its independence from Britain, saying that like many movements, it was not registered or formalised in any way.

“There will undoubtedly be discussion and claims about a drive towards nationhood that began earlier, but the activities of 1937 marked a specific impetus that bore fruit — even as it built on previous activities and deliberations. The goal of the movement was unity — national unity.

"Slavery had created two distinct streams in the populace, but this showed no sign of changing after the slaves were freed. In addition, the people were divided by skin colour, which also meant unequal wealth; at one level there were the whites who owned and controlled everything, and at the other the blacks who eked out a living on the margins.

“The two Jamaicas — one oriented toward Europe, the other toward Africa — operated in symbiotic relationship during the 19th century.

The two Jamaicas are also evident in the music. 'High-culture' Jamaica oscillated around Chopin, Brahms, Beethoven and English, Scottish and Welsh melodies — music without the drum.

“Low-culture Jamaica produced its own music with its own rhythms, and lyrics that either poked fun at situations or at the oppressors, or expressed deep-seated yearnings for improvement in the people's conditions... It promoted an enduring ambivalence that eventually became essentially Jamaican.

Later, this ambivalence was to take on new life in partisan politics,” he wrote. He said that it was the islandwide strikes of the people themselves in 1938 that became “the launch-pad from which Bustamante propelled himself as czar of the trade union movement”. “The unions played a seminal role in the creation of the Jamaica we know, and so did the political parties.

Nevertheless, it was in the emerging trade unions, rather than the political parties, that fractiousness, followed by political violence, first showed its ugly face. “Bustamante 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.

“Supporters of the PNP in the early 1940s were afraid to walk the streets of downtown Kingston as this was the domain of the BITU longshoremen who, identifying them by their attire, often attacked them — anyone who dressed nicely was seen as a PNP supporter. “PNP rallies in Kingston were often stoned and the party consequently moved its meetings and rallies out of downtown Kingston and up above the border with St Andrew at Torrington Bridge, to Edelweiss Park, which was Marcus Garvey's former headquarters,” Walters said.

“This class divergence between the parties was to continue for 30 years until Michael Manley, himself a trade union leader, was voted in as president of the PNP.

On winning a landslide election victory in 1972, he led a twoterm Administration that began pulling support from the working classes as well as the intelligentsia. “It may be noted that this polarisation was not pervasive during the six years 1938 to 1943 when there was only one party.

Instead, there was a unity, a focused determination to build a new and glorious Jamaica from the degradation of slavery and apprenticeship so that, in the words of Norman Manley, we could be proud to say to people anywhere, 'We come from Jamaica'. “But something was lost along the way.

That unity which appeared in the late 1930s to create a new Jamaica suffered some setbacks in the mid-1950s, in 1962, and again in 1976. First, the PNP had to contend with Bustamante's mounting accusations of communism and Godlessness, which only subsided when the four top TUC (and PNP) leaders were expelled from the party for being extremists.

“Next was Norman Manley's dalliance with selfgovernment through the West Indies Federation, only to swing back to his original goal of self-government through independence for Jamaica when in 1961 he lost the referendum he surprisingly called.

“Then, in astounding irony, there was the Independence of Jamaica in 1962 — ironic because the man (Bustamante) who politically had opposed Jamaica's Independence for the better part of 20 years was now elected prime minister of Independent Jamaica, leaving his crushed cousin and hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans in gloom.

“Finally, there was the near civil war of 1976-80. All elections in Jamaica before 1976 had been comparatively quiet and peaceful affairs. The elections of 1976 and 1980 were fought by the JLP with the goal of ousting Michael Manley and his policy of Democratic Socialism, a policy new JLP leader Edward Seaga, reverting to old propaganda, sold to his supporters in and out of Jamaica as 'communist'.

Seaga's overseas activities in this regard eventually earned him a censure from Parliament on November 9, 1979 on a motion by Foreign Minister PJ Patterson.”



Michael Manleygained supportfrom the workingclasses as well asthe intelligentsia.
Then Jamaican PremierNorman Manley (left) pointsout the place for thenOpposition Leader SirAlexander Bustamanteto sign as delegatessigned the conferencereport at the conclusionof the JamaicaIndependenceConference atLancaster House,London, on February 9,1962. Jamaica becameIndependent on August 6,1962. (PHOTO: AP)
WALTERS… many Jamaicans had recognised that thetwo-party system divided the country and fractured thenational unity that attended the discussions andactivities that began in the late 1930s
BY DESMOND ALLEN Executive editor - special assignment

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