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MAKING THE CHANGE FROM THEM AND US TO WE by Sylvestre McLaren

posted 7 Aug 2011, 07:47 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 7 Aug 2011, 07:54 ]

MAKING THE CHANGE FROM THEM AND US TO WE

by Sylvestre McLaren

When the Peoples Partnership Government won the election on May 24, 2010 the electorate felt then, that it was no longer going to be them and us, from that day onwards it would be “WE.”

Comrade Sylvestre McLaren, a well-known stalwart of the trade union movement since the 1960’s is the Treasurer of the National Workers’ Union. He joined the movement as a result of being involved in left politics. 

In 1961 he joined the Union of Foods Hotels Beverages and Allied Workers, which later changed its name to the Union of Foods Hotels and Industrial Workers. Subsequent to the Bus STRIKE OF 1969, in which he was involved, he became a member of the Transport and Industrial Workers Union (TIWU) and was instrumental in causing employees of Trinidad Paper Products Ltd to join TIWU. 

He became an Officer in TIWU in October 1978 being elected to the position of Chief Organiser with responsibility for recruiting and organising branches into the Union. 
The Calypsonian “Crazy” sang a song expressing that sentiment. The question is: are we there yet? The snake oil salesmen in the PP were able to out sell their rivals in the PNM by painting a pretty picture of what T&T would become when we put them in power, but what it has become is a place where the action of this government seems to be creating more racial strife than harmony.

If we are looking at these happenings through racial eyes, we are likely to fall in the trap of the “we in power now” syndrome which only serves to heighten the racial tension and we will never see the real purpose which racism serve.

The colonial masters deliberately pitted Africans and Indians against each other from the very beginning of indentureship. This was to enable the ruling class to exploit the labor power of these workers with impunity. It is interesting to note, however, that during the period following the abolition of slavery, ethnic tensions between Indo and Afro Trinbagonians was not  a major factor in the politics of this country; not until 1956 and that was because, the colonial masters and the French Creole planter class was the focus of attention. Obviously; they were in power during that period!

But from 1956 to the present, ethnic differences were translated into antagonisms depending on which party assumed political office. The middle class intellectuals who usually ended up in the leadership of these two groups, adopted the use of racism as an instrument with which to keep the two groups divided, while they serve their interest and that of the ruling class.

But the middle class is not to be blamed for the way the system is structured. What we must understand is that through slavery and indentureship these two groups were brought here for their labor power to be exploited on the sugar plantation. The method of exploitation was harsh and oppressive, but from the standpoint of the exploiter it served its purpose.

An important fact which must be taken into consideration is that before 1946 Indo and Afro Trinbagonians were not consulted through the electoral process on the question of who should be elected to form the government. While this changed after 1946 it did not alter the power structure. You see, the working class has not yet understood the reality of its situation: that in addition to fighting for reforms (as we are currently doing) we must begin the fight to change the political and economic system.

It is the system which is designed to pit race against race and individual against individual when mister divider –whoever he may be at the time- is dividing the economic pie.

Crazy’s calypso is premised on the assumption, that the current economic and political structures can function in a manner which will allow it to be equitable with the distribution of the patrimony. The problem facing the society in this regard is systemic. You see, the economic infrastructure upon which the political system is built was not designed to produce democratic results for the broad masses of the working people. We often hear media personnel and the spokespersons for the system proclaim how democratic we are, but they will never say, what they really mean is democracy for the few.

What flows out of this type of democracy is the propagation of individual freedom which, when translated, really means every man and woman for themselves. In pursuing this question of individual freedom, in a society in which the economic dice are already loaded against the working man and woman, what chances doses he/she have to achieve economic freedom? I pose this question because every worker struggles to find the answer every waking day of their lives. This is what is at the root of the criminal industry which hangs as a dark cloud over the country at this time.

The criminal elements think in terms of them and us; those who claim leadership of the two ethnic groups spout their propaganda in the context of them and us and the opportunist elements in the labor movement also talk about them and us. That is why, we must expose this propaganda about them and us for what it really is: a plot to keep the two ethnic groups divided and in camps where they can be easily exploited.

Therefore, in order to arrive at that place called “WE” a vehicle constructed and owned by the working class must be the mode of transport in which the “WE’ must travel in order to get to that place where genuine democracy will prevail. Can we do it? Yes we can!

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