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Caspar among the intellects

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Many early tutors in the study of socialism were the members of the Young Socialist Group (YSG) some 40 or more years ago. I attended some of the discussion learning-sharing meetings where Hugh Raguette, Glenroy Browne, Malcolm Garraway, Caspar London, Cole Snagg and a few others devoured “scientific” socialist materials.{{more}}

I was astounded by my ignorance and soon added to my Christian, Caribbean and black reading lists some texts on socialism that were scientific/orthodox, as well as global. Other persons who sent me useful socialist readings or provided motivation were Alfie Roberts, Arnhim Eustace, Ralph Gonsalves and Simeon Greene. Within a couple years, one of our organisations in Diamond Village named “ARWEE” committed itself to a socialist-Marxist path, albeit to a non-sectarian Marxism. In recent years, my sharing on matters of socialist, black and Christian thought have been done mostly in my periodic conversations with the late Caspar London. I will hop in for a 10 minutes “howdy” with him and leave reluctantly a couple hours later. We reached broad and significant agreements, had fierce, inconclusive arguments and signed on to tactical silences. However, we hardly even mentioned each other when we wrote our weekly articles in the newspapers.

DR KENNETH JOHN AND CASPAR

Dr Kenneth John and Caspar London supported two opposed political parties. They wrote “opinion pieces” in two different newspapers. They grew up in Bottom Town on two different levels in the working class – one above and one below the other. Both were fiercely opinionated. Each one was critical of the other’s intellectual status or stance. When the YSG was cutting its teeth on Marxist thought, Ken John was likely about pursuing his PhD studies in politics. They were both members of the United People’s Movement (UPM), founded in 1979, and were UPM candidates in the 1979 elections. The writing of Ken John in The Vincentian newspaper was much more widely read than the articles of Caspar London in “The News” newspaper, but there is a series of personal stories – interviews done by Caspar which are of incomparable value. I don’t think they have an equal. He and I spoke of him doing a series of thematic publications from his articles. Those biographical sketches would be a very worthwhile start.

These two important intellectuals were “positional” opponents. To Caspar, Ken John seemed to be a petit bourgeois professional, serving a backward elite as its intellectual defence, and therefore not fulfilling his potential as a promoter of working people’s cause and authority. Kenneth’s position in the arms of a Mitchell-Eustace imperialist coalition was a betrayal of his finest consciousness. Thus, I summarize how I feel Caspar thought about Dr John. For Kenneth, Caspar seemed to be a genuine activist and an intellectual pretender. He was evidently untrue to himself, having been brutalized and hounded by the Labour regime of the 1970s and now extolling a Labour-based ULP apparatus. He could only have been a “coat tails” comrade, hanging in there for his livelihood.

Because non-party politics is absent or very weak in our society, humanist and socialist and progressive intentions get jammed into ugly and vicious positions and persons glare at each other, speaking hostile rhetoric with barbed tongues. Reality gets obscured and hidden away.

Let us look briefly at two other relationships in the Caspar London story – with Alfie Roberts and Ralph Gonsalves.

ALPHONSO ROBERTS AND CASPAR

Alphonso “Alfie” Roberts was a young Vincentian who played on the West Indies test team abroad and has been rated as equal in potential to the young Garfield Sobers. But he was a Vincentian! He chucked away his cricketing future, migrated to Canada and began a new life there with his wife Patricia Cambridge. He became an unofficial ambassador and an intellectual “sensei”, nurturer and mentor to scores, perhaps hundreds of Vincentians, even as he also was active in justice and peace causes worldwide.

Alfie was a voracious reader. Caspar admired him, his modest lifestyle and accepted him as a guide and teacher. One of Alfie’s strong contentions was that Caribbean people and progressiveness must come to grips with our fore parents’ stories and the real history of our country. He rejected both the colonial version of our history and the Marxist gloss over of our history as a more marginal episode in the epic rise of capitalism. Research, document, analyze and understand the Vincentian story, he told us. He gave research tasks and tools to Caspar, and Caspar never forgot them.

The biographical pieces which Caspar wrote in the NEWS used the methodology that Aphie shared with him as a means to uncover our people’s history. I think that Caspar was the only person with whom Alfie Roberts shared his research tools and tasks. They were co-intellects these two, although they did not sing in unison from the same scientific socialist hymn sheet published in Moscow.

DR GONSALVES AND CASPAR (to be continued)

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