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Draw the line of reaction

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The coming to power of the Ralph Gonsalves-led ULP administration in 2001 has posed many problems to those progressives outside the ULP (not to mention the opposition NDP) as to how best to handle it, to characterize its nature and hence how to relate to it. For the ULP came to power on an undeniably progressive programmatic platform, yet replete with so many contradictions that it was clear from the outset that performance would not always match rhetoric.{{more}}

A faithful and full implementation of its over-ambitious Manifesto clearly required a Party of character which neither the 2001 ULP, nor the 2006 version in fact, possessed. Much depended and continues to depend on its leader, not just on account of his charisma but more so on his own levels of consciousness and committedness, his long years of experience in the trenches and his supreme confidence in his ability to deliver. Yet, we all know that one man does not make an island nor can he alone a revolution make. There was bound to be a series of advances and retreats, of side-steps and dilly-dallying. So it turned out to be.

Yet there is no denying the basic progressive and pro-people nature of ULP policies, in word and deed, though in typical fashion of Caribbean politics, the right hand often detracts from what the left hand does and as a result there is much of a zig-zag path. Its advances in education and health are admirable, in spite of several administrative blunders and the thrust of its foreign policy is smack right on target. Neither the “purists” among us nor the Opposition for that matter, concur with this analysis.

Thus in regard to foreign policy for example, much is made of what is deemed the “contradiction’ in a foreign policy in which relations with Taiwan sit side by side with close cooperation with Chavez’ Venezuela and a continued reaffirmation of close ties to “traditional friends” (USA, UK) co-exists with firm support for and collaboration with Cuba under the leadership of that nemesis of US imperialism, President Fidel Castro Ruz.

The purist approach is an easy one for those of us on the outside, free to talk, write and criticize as we please, without the burden of accountability to the electorate for our actions. Those in the world of politics must, or at least ought to, take into account what is called “realpolitik.”

Not that this must be used as an absolute excuse for procrastination, opportunism or selfish self-interest which is manifested from time to time, but that the totality of the situation must be borne in mind. When we raise criticisms we must always be aware of the context and the limitations and we must strike a balance.

Above all, especially for those of us who like to pin on the tag of “progressives” we must, while maintaining our independence of thought and action, nevertheless at the same time be able always to maintain the demarcation between conscious and progressive thought and action and backwardness and reaction. And we must be careful in our criticism of broadly progressive governments and leaders, not to give succour to those who would use our principled disagreements to undermine progressive causes and derail positive actions.

Take the Cuban Revolution as an example. Even President Castro has not been afraid from time to time to admit to its mistakes, it is far from perfect. But it is a major departure from our unjust systems of capitalist exploitation and submissions to the dictates of the few and mighty. Cuba is not just another country, nor is a relationship with it of the same character of our relations with the USA for one. It is the failure to make such distinctions that has some misguided intellectuals in our midst describing our relationship with Cuba as “neo-colonial”. It betrays either a gross lack of understanding of what is neo-colonisim or crass dishonesty. What economic interests does Cuba have in SVG? Which companies of theirs extract profits from our labours or resources? Would that such people avail themselves of that seminal work of the late Kwame Nkrumah, entitled “Neo -Colonialism: The highest stage of imperialism”!

Even more disappointingly there are those in the progressive movement, no doubt frustrated, as I am, that we do not do enough in solidarity with Cuba, who commit the cardinal sin of deeming SVG’s relationship with Cuba as “parasitic”. Not only is this an insult to the foreign policy of our government, it also denigrates the Vincentian people. By all means let us work together to ensure that “one hand” is not clapping but at the same time we have a duty to portray the true nature of socialist assistance from Cuba which does not demand a pound of flesh in return. If we can give an ounce of solidarity and above all maintain our dignity and sovereignty, Cuba will be well satisfied. As for the ridiculous and damaging claims that “thousands of Cubans are waiting for similar treatment” to our “VISION NOW” patients, does this not imply that Cuba is denying its own citizens medical treatment in preference to ours. That is patently not true. I recently underwent diagnosis at a top Cuban medical facility CEMEA. Ordinary Cubans were doing the same, free of cost. Could that happen here?

As well-meaning as we may be, we have to be careful not to be standard bearers for the forces of reaction. Take Emancipation for instance, officially ignored until 2001. I for one am not satisfied that the ULP has sufficiently done justice to the occasion. But at least it has tried. What of the rest of us? And to conclude in 2006 that emancipation is to be belittled because it was nothing but a “contrivance to halt the true advance of the people…” that it…never came…” should never come from the lips or pens of August 1, 1834 and 1838 gave absolute freedom to we people ‘who are darker than blue” but one cannot and MUST NOT belittle the occasion. It is an important landmark in our history, a milestone on the road which took us through Adult Suffrage and Independence. We still have far to go but we must hold dear to us the memory of those milestones as fundamental achievements of the struggle of our people. Yes, we have much more to strive for but we have progressed.

In this light too, we must avoid “dissing” the efforts, even though lukewarm, of those who mark such occasions. We must congratulate Culture Minister Rene Baptiste for her boldness in raising the “Reparation” call even, as we push for a more consistent and organized line. My brothers, do not, by omission or commission give room to reaction and backwardness. Our greatest contradiction is with those forces, not with those who even inconsistently, promote progressive ideas.

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