The best we can do is ensure accountability
Eva Hodgson has strenuously tried to show the damage of division in the black community caused by party politics. Over the years I have concluded a few important points about the formative years of party politics.
One is that the political efforts of the early black community were more about gaining representation, then power.
The Progressive Labour Party originally fielded nine candidates, winning six seats in the 1963 elections.
Under a voting system that was entirely gerrymandered against blacks, it was more important in those days to have a vehicle to foster participation in Parliament, and a political party was an avenue.
They fell victim as in the old parable “Be careful when you invite a prince to solve the problems in your town because, while he may solve the problem, the next problem will be how to get the prince out of your town”.
I had the fortune of knowing many of those persons integrally involved in the PLP beginnings and they would admit they never expected the problems they subsequently encountered.
One significant, unexpected consequence is the division to which Dr Hodgson alludes.
Later, possibly around 1972, I recall at a PLP rally at the Devonshire Recreation Club being shocked to my senses when Arthur Hodgson in his speech said “the objective of politics is to obtain power”. The issue of attaining power was a political evolution, as was the divergent philosophies of what power should look like and does.
The difference in social outlook and social classes within the black community was bulldozed by the idea of party solidarity.
However, the natural difference within the fabric of any human society, which roughly manifest as conservative or liberal views also, existed with the subset of the black community.
The black community within itself is diverse. Back in the early 1960s, there was a thriving merchant class and a strong middle class, far deeper than that of the United States or Caribbean equivalents, who were progressive and favoured a rational approach towards a better future. Consistent with the times, there was also those favouring more radical approaches. The radical element was always a minority, but also the loudest.
These natural, unresolved differences benefited the status quo, which for more than 30 years thrived off the divisions. Hence it is only natural that commentators such as Dr Hodgson in presenting the nostalgia of the pre-party days of unity can only lament. This is so because there has not emerged a political equation or ideology that captures all the elements of need for the beleaguered black population. The choice has been the lesser of two evils for a large segment.
Party politics to date has missed the boat for being a contemporaneous “new age” diversity that is the ultimate ideal.
Nor has an ideological evolution taken hold of the parties that could suffice as an organisation committed to the best interest of all the people.
“My turn” versus “your turn” is still the modus operandi, with no indications of change in the near future. It will all crash eventually, but between now and then expect a lot of conflict.
The best we can do is ensure accountability because we don't have any way of selecting members of Parliament, or who represents a party — or you could put yourself forward.
The public have very little means of shaping the calibre of our representation until open primaries and freedom of political opinion are legislated for political parties.