PNP operating like a cassette player in an age of live streamingSunday, June 13, 2021
“Democratic socialism is dead.” That was the firm declaration of its premier local lieutenant, former Prime Minister Michael Manley, at a meeting of the People's National Party's (PNP) National Executive Council that was held at The University of the West Indies, Mona, in the early 1990s. Manley also publicly rejected democratic socialism in Washington, DC, after he got a third bite of Jamaica's choicest political cherry in February 1989. The political scales had fallen from Manley's eyes.
Three decades later, Mark Golding, president of the PNP and leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, has disregarded Manley's good council. To me, Golding has effectively opted for the curious option of political blindness. This in circumstances in which he clearly could have struck a new chord, ushered in a new breeze, and set a new temperature for his party — on which is dying under the dead weight of calcified traditions, approaches, message, and outlook.
Small wonder, therefore, that the PNP was rejected in the last two general elections. That rejection will continue unless the party recognises that it is operating like a cassette player in an age of live streaming.
By any other name...
If the PNP wants to become electable it needs to be modernised, and fast. That process needs to start with radical shifts. The PNP, for example, needs to put democratic socialism in its rear-view mirror. But, based on the pronouncement — “I never wore locks, but I was always a socialist, liberation person, always focused on freeing the people.” — that seems very unlikely to happen.
Among other things, Golding made the mentioned declaration in this newspaper last Sunday.
He was obviously trying to establish 'street creds' by fastening himself to the Rastafarian movement. I can't fault him for that. He is, after all, a politician. All over the world, politicians try to log on to any thing, place, person, or groups of individuals who they think will increase their image and favourability. There was a glaring error in Golding's spiel, however. Socialism means that production, distribution and exchange are owned and regulated by the State. One cannot, therefore, correctly and/or convincingly espouse societal liberation and freedom of the people by means of socialism. These are mutually exclusive.
John Stuart Mills, 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.”
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'.”
Unsurprisingly, there is no successful socialist economy anywhere in the world. Golding seems to have forgot this fact too, or did he?
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, in a previous column I demonstrated with copious evidence that during the period when some of the Scandinavian nations experimented with socialism there was near social and economic ruin.
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.”
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.”
Indeed, ruination and socialism go hand in hand. Recall that we, in Jamaica, were flung to the brink of the economic abyss by the ruinous policies of Michael Manley in the 1970s. We are yet to fully recover from those harrows. I have presented overwhelming evidence to buttress and prove that conclusion previously.
We must never, ever go down the derelict socialist road again. Were we to make that death-dealing error again, we would be the laughing stock of the Caribbean and permanent castaways, globally.
What manner of socialism?
It is imperative, therefore, that Golding explains to the country where/what is the mainspring of his socialism. Why is that important?
Golding is the de facto alternative prime minister, folks; therefore, we have a right to know the precise foundation upon which his socialist ideology is situated. Does he have sympathies with communism or totalitarian regimes? Are his socialist beliefs grounded in Marxist doctrinaire? Is he a Christian socialist? Or is he a devotee of Fabianism — the rotten dogma from which democratic socialism was hatched? Is he a libertarian socialist?
Just what kind of socialist is Mark Golding? He has a duty to tell the country.
We have a tendency in this country to wait until the horse has gone through the gate before we act. This malady is present in numerous aspects of how we have governed, or more so misgoverned, ourselves.
Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
We need to get out of the “if mi did know” fixation like 50 years ago. Our love affair with “buying puss inna bag” has cost us dearly. We have a duty, as citizens, to interrogate those who come to the country purporting to sell us salvation. If we don't, we are going continue to move forward by mere inches, when Jamaica requires great leaps.
On the matter of great leap, 89 Old Hope Road is urgently in need of one. The PNP needs a moderniser; someone at the helm who accepts change almost as second nature. I get the impression that the PNP is today top-heavy with people who kick, stream, and throw tantrums before they accept change, and even then reluctantly so. High concentration of political Luddites, especially at the upper echelon of the PNP, will only continue to drag Norman Manley's party deeper in the political depths of despair.
The PNP needs to embrace the big tent approach. Several polls in the run-up to the February 25, 2016 and September 3, 2020 general elections pointed out that the PNP's largest support base consisted of voters over 50. They have to find ways of attracting younger voters. That will require diligent work with respect to the creation of workable, doable and attractive programmes and policies, and thereafter convince a large new segment of voters that these are beneficial to them personally.
Before the PNP gets to that hopeful juncture, they best take some advice from Tony Blair, former British prime minister, who won three consecutive general elections — 1997, 2001, 2005. In addressing a British Labour Party conference he said: “To win power, we need self-discipline, not self-indulgence, listening to what people are truly saying, not hearing only the parts we want to hear.”
Long before the holding of the general elections in 2016 and 2020 I pointed out in this space that folks were not interested in nonsense about “left or right”. I submitted that a critical mass was asking: What have you done for me lately? And what are you going to do for me, shortly?
Those who say, oh, “this is the underbelly of transactional politics on steroids”, need to understand that folks are not willing to sacrifice their hopes and dreams on the altar of ideology any more. That epoch has ended. The PNP needs to throw out its black and white TV and embrace the age of colour. If it is not transformed, soon, it will continue to be distressed, derailed and divided. Its broken state is much more than a faint nausea.
There was a time in Jamaica when a privileged few had a near monopoly on the major conduits of information and communication. As a consequence, they directed, especially, the principal narrative of the political architecture. It would not be an exaggeration to say that they decided, to a large degree, what people thought about and how often they thought it. Those days are over and done. The minds of the managing class have been largely made redundant by the ubiquitous tools of the Internet and new media. Many of the former mind-managing cliques are now suffering with advanced kingmaker withdrawal syndrome.
There are some intellectuals who try, every chance they get, to drive a wedge between the people and the Government, submitted JLP leader Prime Minister Andrew Holness in a statement to Parliament recently. This has caused some folks among us to angrily loosen their britches, others have got into an almighty tizzy, still others are seemingly threatening to huff and puff and blow Holness and his Administration to where the sun doesn't shine. The irony is loud!
So, let me try and understand what makes these intellectuals tick. They have a right to criticise, ad nauseam, Holness and his Administration, but he does not have a right of response, because he occupies the highest elected position in the land.
These intellectuals whom the prime minister did not identify need to understand that we live in a democracy. There are indeed countries in which one has to remain as quiet like a mouse in the face of criticism from certain quarters. Fortunately, Jamaica is not one. It is called democracy, get with it!
The World Press Freedom Index, compiled by the France-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), in a release last month, ranked Jamaica seventh out of 180 countries. This says to me that we live in a very healthy press environment. Sounds like Jamaica is doing quite well with regard to freedom of speech. Press freedom cannot exist without freedom of speech, not for some, but for all, including the elected and selected, provided they operate within the specific bounds of the law. It is conspicuous that some who have been working hard to affix the label of dictator to Holness are among our most intolerant.
We tolerate this nonsense!
Headline: 'Shocking death of a baby', Sunday Observer, June 6, 2021. Those who read this harrowing story and were not moved to tears must have a speck of ice covering their heart and frozen stuff running through their veins. How many more Shanique Armstrongs are there?
The news item said, among other things: “Shanique Armstrong visited Spanish Town Hospital for a recurring cough but ended up delivering her baby on her own in the company of strangers.
“The 26-year-old woman, who went into pre-term labour while on a bed in the waiting area of the hospital's Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department, told the Jamaica Observer that her cries for help went unanswered by hospital staff, including nurses, whom she said insisted that they were not trained to deliver babies.”
“No doctor was reportedly available at the time.
“Armstrong, who was 24 weeks pregnant, said the infant died sometime after her delivery.”
If the allegations are proved, we must ask ourselves: Why do we tolerate the visitation of this sort of cruelty upon especially ordinary Jamaicans. The answer is clear to me: It has been so for many years.
These abuses don't happen to certain categories of Jamaicans, and the one who are affected are yet to realise that we have the power in our hands to stop them.
A first step is to cease the trivialising of our politics, and demand that systems are put in place to significantly prevent the abuse of citizens which has become commonplace over many decades.
When Jodian Fearon died, last April, I wrote, among other things, in my The Agenda piece: “The severely inhuman treatment reportedly meted out to Fearon was not an oddity. We have travelled this ghastly road before. Invariably, we come upon the ghosts of our own creation.” ( Jamaica Observer, May 2, 2020)
Once again the long-standing structural failures of the Jamaican State are laid bare.
Garfield Higgins is an educator and journalist. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org
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