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posted 30 Sept 2012, 21:01 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 30 Sept 2012, 21:18 ]


The scandal of section 34 has elicited massive outrage and resentment from people across the political spectrum and quite rightly so. Citizens of T&T are angry that the venal capitalist politicians in whose hands they have entrusted the leadership of the country have once again attempted to take them for fools. 
Not only have the political hustlers of the ruling party attempted to use the law to protect the interests of their friends and financiers (this is nothing new), but, in true conman style, have told us they did so in our interests. 

Their expectation that this latest outrage would be another nine day wonder has blown up in their faces and they are fighting to salvage whatever political credibility they can. They have been forced on the defensive and for the first time since coming into office have lost the political initiative and are facing the prospect of a broad front determined to make them pay for their disrespect for the people. 

The National Workers Union (NWU) holds it as a positive development that people are determined to have a say in how the country is governed. This must be encouraged. 
All over the world as the capitalist crisis deepens, workers have shown their determination to fight back against all attempts to marginalise them and deepen their exploitation. They are refusing to pay for the capitalist crisis. They are revolting against oppressive government. We, in T&T, are no different. 
Thirty years ago, the Mighty Sparrow in his classic calypso Good Citizens sang: “They use their riches and their power to make a mockery of the law and have the law protect them same time.” An entire generation has grown up since that time and the situation has not changed, only gotten worse. 
In a statement dated September 13th, the NWU said: “The National Workers Union understands clearly that those who pay the piper call the tune. We also understand that the law, generally, serves the interests of the ruling class and that the ideal of equality before the law is a long way off from being a reality.” 
Understanding that the society was conceived in iniquity and was born to inequity, the NWU insists that working people must be clear what their class interests are and not continue to fall prey to the sweet talk of those who exploit them that “all ah we is one!”. That is manifestly untrue and is a line peddled by those who benefit from shady dealings, corruption and naked exploitation of our labour power. 
It is not enough to cast the struggle in the mode of a fight for “good governance” within the confines of the neo-colonial state. This leads to defending the colonial political and constitutional arrangements that we were stuck with at Independence. 
These arrangements, far from being sacred and worthy of defence were never intended to assist the masses in democratising the society. They were intended to ensure that the working class continues to be exploited in the interest of the transnational corporations, the local conglomerates and an assortment of financial conmen, crony capitalists and political hustlers.Those who live off the fat of the land gorge themselves at the trough of the national treasury. This has been our experience since independence. 

We have restricted the struggle to a fight for “good governance” for the last fifty years and more and it has just led us deeper into the swamp. The numerous political crises that have beset us since Independence have seen the working class take the lead in the fight against corruption and for “good governance”. 
Sometimes this takes the form of social insurrection, generalised strikes etc. in an effort to open up more space as we struggle to expand our rights, benefits and entitlements and for increased political space. 
When the scene settles down we hand over the reins to professional middle class political hustlers and confidence tricksters who have no concern for the welfare of the working class but only for grease hand, kickbacks and sordid deals with transnational corporations. 

So we go from twedle dum to tweedle dee (PNM/NAR; PNM/UNC; PNM/PP) and through our trade union leaders we try to feed from the scraps of the overseers’ table. While we fight up for “good governance” and switch from Bim to Bam, the power structure remains in place – the conglomerates, financial smartmen and transnational corporations continue to rule the roost. 
Let us be clear. The national front against the depredations of the PP is in the interest of organised labour, but it is also in the interest of the PNM. The call has already gone out for new elections so the jockeying for positions has already begun. The PNM does not have the capacity to run a sustained extra-parliamentary struggle against the government. The PNM needs the muscle, organising ability and capacity to mobilise that organised labour possesses. 
They want us to forget that for two generations they have waged war against the working class. They have inflicted anti-worker legislation on the trade unions; they have pursued economic policies that have left the neo-colonial structure of the society intact and that are premised on cheap labour. 
The PNM has inflicted numerous states of emergency on the masses over the years. As recently as their last term, they used the Inter-ministerial Committee to frustrate negotiations, continued their effort to dismantle the public service, tried to decertify the Communication Workers Union and the Transport and Industrial Workers Union and presided over an orgy of corruption. 
If we adopt the attitude of that is all in the past then we are no different to Jack Warner in his philosophy of yesterday is yesterday and today is today. They will whisper sweet nothings to the trade union leaders in order to seduce the movement into doing its bidding. But words are cheap: by their deeds you must judge them! 
PNM aims to channel the outrage and resentment building up in the society into support for them whenever an election is called. They can only succeed in this with the co-operation and collaboration of trade union leaders. 
The irony is that elections don’t actually disturb the power structure. The power of capital cannot be voted out of existence. It must be dismantled root and branch. Only the organised power of the working class has that potential. 
Political intrigues must not take precedence over an all out campaign to draw the rank and file into participating in their own affairs through, most of all, working class education, agitation and organisation aimed at strengthening the institutions of working class power. Organised labour must become fighting fit to face the challenges of capitalism in collapse. 
Who wins the next elections is not as important as how organised the labour movement is, how capable it is of protecting, defending and advancing the interests of the working class. This capacity can only be built by democratising the trade union movement, developing structures where the voice of the rank and file must not only be heard, but acted upon and by organising the hundreds of thousands of workers who are not unionised. 
If the trade union movement maximises its strength through the judicious deployment of the power of numbers acting collectively and in solidarity and through its power over production, then whatever group of political termites infests the government cannot afford to ignore the demands of the working people. 
Given such a scenario the trade unions’ attitude toward elections becomes a tactical question; the trade unions’ attitude toward a political alternative not premised on just fighting elections but on achieving the strategic objective of breaking the power of capital becomes critical. 

Failing this the UNCOPNM will keep having more influence among the workers than the trade union leaders who will then be forced into unseemly and sordid alliances with their class enemies. The fate of Errol McLeod, ex-leader of the MSJ, provides a cautionary tale. 
The National Workers Union insists that the struggle must not be restricted to that of “good governance”. The power structure in the country is based on corruption and inequality, exploitation and oppression. The watchmen for the system are part of a kleptocracy. The system cannot afford “good governance”. 
The task of the leaders of the working class, therefore, is not to defend the neo-colonial constitution of T&T which validates the capitalist basis of the society. The task is to fight to transform a society based on the exploitation of labour and profit maximisation in the interest of the concentration and accumulation of capital. The task is to build a system based on serving the needs of people where the value produced by workers will not be appropriated by capitalists but will be utilised for the good of society as a whole.

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Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer – Cell: 785-7637)
Gerry Kangalee,
30 Sept 2012, 21:27